Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Phenomenal Woman: Jaking Merimyas

New Age Woman updated their page on the Post Courier and I decided to suss out their new issue. Their "Nivea Lunch-break" feature has to be one of the things I look forward to reading. PNG has so many successful women who often don't have their successes celebrated (in comparison to men in the country).
This month's feature was on Jaking Marimyas. It took me a while to realise that I'd actually gone to school with 3 of her daughters - Hannah, Lucille and their younger sister (who's name escapes me at this point). She is also the younger sister of MP Bart Philemon. Anyways here's the article...

“You can do better,” Jaking Marimyas told herself.
Like most Papua New Guinean women back in 1968 and at the age of 18, education past high school to tertiary institutions was very competitive.
And taking the back seat still hearing the words of her older brother (“It’s girls like this that deserve to be sent to universities…” about a female relative), Mrs Marimyas clenched her fist and made a vow to prove the whole village wrong including her brother.
“After completing Grade 9 at Bumayong High School - due to limited space - I decided to enroll at Balob Teachers College to train to become a teacher.
“I did well passing with a credit beating those Grade 10 students who were in my class,” she reminisced with an accomplished smile.
Upon receiving her certificate for teaching, the college principal approached her consider training to become a lecturer at the college.
“Mr Stolz was the principal then and he offered me a job to be trained as a lecturer after doing two years of my teaching in the field,” she said.
It was in 1973 when Mrs Marimyas bunked up with three other Australian women lecturers to study to become an associate lecturer.
The idea then was for her to learn the ways of the expatriates and to raise her personal and professional standard.
“I had a professional mentor, Ms Pitman was her name but when at home, it was Rosemary Gerlken, one of the three expatriate women, I was living with,” she said.
Mrs Marimyas said they had a system in place for house keeping, where one person took charge of cooking for a week.
“I was scared at first to cook the women our traditional dishes so I would stand behind the ladies while they were cooking and watch. Picking up how they did their cooking, I would do the same including my favourite, cucumber and cheese sandwich.”
“Then one time I took up the courage to do some traditional dishes cooking chicken and pumpkin leaves with coconut. To my surprise the pots were all clean swept,” she remembered smiling.
Mrs Marimyas like most Papua New Guineans during those days was always compared with others. She felt uncomfortable at times when she was in the village.
“I knew they were preparing us for jobs. But they never taught us how to fit back into our traditional societies; for me it was something I had to teach myself.”
She furthered her knowledge of the world when she was sent to Brisbane for a week’s YWCA conference. Then in 1974, she went to Canberra for 10 months to complete her diploma in tertiary teaching. It was here that she met her husband Gabriel Marimyas and got married the following year in July. Both had their first daughter Alma in 1978 and Noela the following year.
Mrs Marimyas continued to have offers to further her studies overseas but declined.
“My priority was my family and my children so I rejected all these offers,” she said.
But Ms Philemon even after having six children still never gave up the vow she made when she was in Grade 9. She enrolled at UPNG in 1991 to complete her matriculation studies and then to completed her first degree.
“The Bachelor in Education was an In-service, split Campus program for Teacher’s College Lectures coordinated by UPNG and Queensland University of Technology.
“During my study at UPNG, I met the same female relative my brother had been talking about. I had fulfilled the vow, accomplished it. But a little voice inside me told me I could do more,” she said.
And she did just that by achieving another degree, a Master of Learning Innovation.
Mrs Marimyas is currently the Assistant Secretary for the Curriculum Development and Assistant Division with the Department of Education.
She is now 57 and has traveled to the United States, Canada, England, Japan, Thailand and number of Pacific Island countries.
“But in life my greatest achievement is my family including my twin grandsons,” she said.
So what is your secret?” I asked and she said, “Never show people that you are a woman by putting up barriers, see yourself as a partner doing that work…. never show that you know better than him; ideas are good, never challenge, acknowledge their strength and work with them.”

Source: New Age Woman


  1. The twins' younger sister was Gabby. The name finally came to me lol

  2. "Like most Papua New Guinean women back in 1968 and at the age of 18, education past high school to tertiary institutions was very competitive"
    It still is very competitive. When asked by an interviewer a while a go what my biggest achievement was so far and I told him it was getting into university.He was stunned. I said, unlike here (NZ) we only have 3 universities in PNG and they can't cater to the thousands of Yr 12 leavers. I scored a place at UPNG with a govt scholarship. Whilst I wasn't able to go to UPNG I'd like to think that someone else was also given the chance to go to University.

  3. Wow Illaine...

    For some reasonm I didn't quite figure out why she said 'never challenge'....for me, I think challenging with reason and logic is very important especially if your position is being challenged. So why 'never challenge'? Maybe I'm putting her remark out of context but I am in need of clarification here!!

  4. I agree with you Spowf. The "never challenge" bit also got me. I've reread that last para so several times and I still can't figure out what she means. NWA please clarify!

    Whoever wrote the piece seems to have cut some parts of the last para out and in doing so may have altered what she really wanted to say. But hey, that's just my take on it.

  5. My take on it is that its her take on "women are the backbone of men" + "most men are chauvinistic" + "men have the power". So I imagine in her field if you were to challenge openly that would make you lose your ticket to move further up the ladder.
    She says - "ideas are good" so she means - when you don't agree with something - don't approach the man with a challenging/opposing tone, but rather present your views as 'ideas' and this way you may in fact be applauded.
    I totally agree with her because what she says is that - the power is in being adaptive to every single thing that comes your way without losing your own principles. She builds up on this by stating the need to be aware that you may lack in certain areas and must learn to acknowledge that others have certain strengths that can work to your benefit.
    The world is your oyster, make use of it, be humble and suck all its bad juices up. Hahah - eew that sounds gross.

  6. PNG has 6 Universities, not 3:

    PNG University of Technology
    University of Goroka
    Vudal University
    Divine Word University
    Pacific Adventist University

    & now #7:Lutheran University (brand new).

    Just thought I'd correct that.

    Nice Blog :)