Close to 200 government employees, activists, non-government organizations, and businesses convened for the daylong CNMI Women’s Summit last March 29 at the Hibiscus Hall of Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan.
To mark this year’s theme, “Lead-HER-Ship: Masters of Our Own Destiny,” the event kicked off with the arrival of sakman Neni captained by Sophia Perez, with crew April Repeki, Rep. Sheila Babauta, and Art De Oro. A sakman is an indigenous canoe.
The summit, which was hosted by the CNMI Women’s Association, got underway following the American and CNMI anthems sung by Malua Kiana Peter Hosono and Antonette Michaela Peter Nogis; a welcome address and special remarks by CNMI Women’s Association president Rose T. Ada-Hocog and first lady Diann Torres, affirming the call for action to support women’s rights and promote gender equality in the region and the world.
According to the CNMI Women’s Summit Steering Committee, this year’s summit was conceived to promote the empowerment of women through women’s woven voices, particularly by opening up discussion and engaging in conversation about issues that affect women.
The keynote address was delivered by a daughter of the Marianas, Rlene Santos Steffy, a leading ethnographer and oral historian in the Pacific.
Steffy shared her personal experiences and emphasized the importance of being at the helm to chart one’s own course and journey and to author one’s “her-story” “the way you want to write it.”
Moderator Erin Derrington from the Office of Planning and Development led the presentation on “Equality and the Sustainable Development Goals,” which framed the panel presentation and discussions of Rep. Janet Maratita, Rep. Tina Sablan, Patricia Coleman, Maisie Tenorio, and Retta Hamilton.
Recommendations and resolutions from the summit will be presented to the CNMI leadership for consideration and action.
The summit ended with performance by award-winning MHS Glee Club, whose medley of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Moana’s How Far I’ll Go, and Andra Day’s “Rise Up” received a standing ovation.
Following the performance, Agnes McPhetres said in her closing remarks: “In my 60 years in education, I could say that this is one of the best days of my life…”
And to think the summit almost didn’t push through following the devastation of Super Typhoon Yutu in October 2018. The first Women’s Summit was held in 2013.
The summit’s sponsors were Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, Marianas Variety, U-TOP Investment (Saipan) Inc., Bank of Guam, Northern Marianas Humanities Council, Northern Marianas College, and IT&E.
Non-profit organizations and businesses also donated:
– The Lady Diann Torres Foundation for giveaways.
– Commonwealth Council for Arts and Culture and Artists for traditional handicraft and displays.
– 500 Sails and crew for sailing the sakman Neni to the summit’s grounds.
– MHS Glee Club for their medley performance.
– MyCapitures Photography for providing complimentary professional headshots.
– Godfather’s Beach Hour Bar for providing happy hour specials during the post-summit social event.
– Tropical Instance Press, Inc. for printing the CNMI Women’s Summit banner “Lead-Her-Ship.”
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