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Angel's Confirmation

The Village Explainer
Angel's Confirmation
By Dan McGarry • Issue #64 • View online
The Village Explainer is a semi-regular newsletter containing analysis and insight focusing on under-reported aspects of Pacific societies, politics and economics.
This issue explores the right of girls and women to self-expression.

Angel got her hair done Saturday. And she got a nice white dress. She was up at dawn to put it on, so she could wear it for her confirmation.
When she got back from church, she got cake.
I struggle to find a way to say this. But for this girl, it was the first time she’d really had anything of her own. A day when she was special. A day that was just for her. I don’t think I’ve ever not known what that’s like, but for her, it took…
… well, I don’t even know how long it took, because no one’s certain how old she is. I’m gonna guess she’s 12.
Angel’s been living with us for a couple of years now. She came from a hardscrabble family on east Pentecost. It was a traditional life, and a basic one.
An island girl’s life is not an easy one. From an early age, she’s working. Learning the household skills. Minding the children. She’s given very little space to actually become someone.
Girls are pulled out of school more often than boys, and earlier, too. While love matches are much more likely now than they were, opportunities to give or receive affection are deeply circumscribed. Displays of affection are generally limited to family.
But nobody asks her what she thinks. Nobody stops to tell her news. Nobody answers her questions about the world. Nobody tells her that she’s got a right to ask.
Every year, I learn a little more about the value of a community-based existence. When it’s supporting you, the mass of the collective is bedrock.
But when it’s landing on your back, it flattens you.
The strong and the privileged here stand on that bedrock and achieve great things. Most women are expected to lift it.
But yesterday, Angel got confirmed. Yes, she became a full-fledged member of the Catholic church. But in a way, she became a person, too.
She always was, of course. But yesterday, she realised she was free to define what that meant. She was free to be someone unique, someone worth a nice hairdo and a pretty dress.
And cake. Lots of cake.
ABC News approached me a little while ago. They were seeking children who would be willing to express their views on climate change. I agreed to broach the topic with my youngest.
“Hey Tanya, ABC News wants to know if you—”
“YES!”
I didn’t even get to finish my sentence. So today, she joins the daughter of Solomon Islands PM Manasseh Sogavare, Aiyanna Macewa from Fiji, and climate activist Brianna Freuean in expressing her concerns for the future. It’s an honour and a privilege, and she treated it that way.
Pacific youth 'grow up with fear' as climate change threatens their homes and futures - ABC News
I love and admire Pentecost kastom. I admire the space its women and girls have carved out for themselves. But they deserve more.
They deserve to experience the world as someone who matters for herself. Who supports the community, not as a labourer carries a load, but as a mother cradles her child.
They deserve to be able to stand on its bedrock and say, “That’s not good enough. I deserve more. I deserve this.”
They deserve confirmation. As people, worthy of a life of their own.
And cake. Lots of cake.
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Dan McGarry

The Village Explainer is a semi-regular newsletter containing analysis and insight focusing on under-reported aspects of Pacific societies, politics and economics.

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Dan McGarry - Port Vila, Vanuatu