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FEATURE STORY March 2, 2018

Inspiring women in the Pacific: Norleen's story


The World Bank

As part of our ongoing series, #PacificPossible, we are sharing insights from some of the region’s young and emerging leaders, for their take on what’s possible for the future of the Pacific Islands. For International Women’s Day 2018 – we are getting to know some of the young women leaders that are making an impact in the Pacific. Norleen Oliver is the Gender Development Officer and Chief of Social Affairs for the national government of Federated States of Micronesia.

Tell us a little about yourself.

On a personal level, I’m married to a very amazing husband who gives 100% support to me and my work and have two beautiful daughters who are 12 and 7 years old. I’m also fortunate to have the backing of a very supportive extended family.

The work that I do is confined within the already-established system of roles between the national and state level governments of the FSM. So as a national level employee, I work on social development policies, seek funding opportunities for the states, provide technical assistance where my capabilities lie and see what the states want and need and coordinate the technical assistance that comes in through FSM’s development partners.

The division that I work in also hosts the focal points for the elderly, gender, children and persons with disabilities and is responsible for the coordination, compilation and submission of the country’s reports on the ratified conventions.

I’ve only been in this program for a little over a year. A huge challenge with my work is the small annual operational budget that restricts the work that I need to do, so I appreciate both the technical and funding support that this office receives from development partners.

This year the 20th Congress has given me funding to support an upcoming women’s conference. This will support the planning and the conference itself plus the activities that will follow from the outcome of the conference.

What are you most proud of?

There’s a lot to celebrate and to be proud of. The  Family Safety Bill was recently passed, which is a big step in the right direction. At least now there’s a legal framework but we need some support in the implementation of this law.

I’m also very proud to have represented my country at high level human rights forums including the Human Rights Council meeting at its 34th session, and at the FSM’s dialogue on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in Geneva. I have also just successfully completed my Masters in Public Health, thanks to the support of the government and my family.

What are some challenges and opportunities?

In terms of this work, it’s really our stereotypes, our norms and culture; but they’re slowly breaking away.

The opportunities that FSM has: there are many entities out there that are really supportive of this kind of work, or to ensure that FSM gets to a better place. Given FSM’s complexity and different levels of governments, we need to harmonize these differences to better articulate what is best for the country as a whole.

Where do you hope to see FSM in 25 years’ time?

FSM is a young country. I hope that in 25 years’ time, FSM would have learned enough from its own history to become a self-reliant country. A country that can nurture its people to stand proud of their unique heritage.


The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the World Bank Group and its employees.