Marshall Inseln: Carmen Bigler

The walap, the traditional sailing canoe, is central to Marshallese village life, to the unity and integrity of a community. The whole village comes together to build one; we work as one."

— Carmen Bigler

Carmen Bigler has worn many hats in her long career. She was the first Marshallese woman to obtain a degree and the first woman to join the Congress of Micronesia during an era when men dominated the political arena. She is an advocate for women's issues and a firm believer in the preservation of culture, helping to develop the nation's only cultural-historical museum, library, and archive. The outcome was a significant revival of interest in cultural activity by many young mothers and youths. Currently, Carmen is the president of Women United Together in Marshall Islands.

Carmen Bigler is no stranger to hardship. The common household saying for her family was "No work, no food!" Her father was killed by the Japanese during World War II, and in those difficult times for the family Carmen learned values such as sharing, equality, and caring for others. During her college years abroad, her Hawaiian college friends were always telling her how lucky she was to still speak her own vernacular language. Thus, Carmen learned to appreciate her own culture and gradually developed her passion for preserving it. Armed with an anthropology degree, she returned to the Marshalls and worked on various community projects. It was not until a Peace Corps volunteer friend of hers drowned while snorkeling that an opportunity for cultural revival presented itself to Carmen. Handicrafts were sent to the volunteer's parents and in return, money was sent back to her. Carmen used the funds to establish a historical/cultural museum. The first of its kind in the country, the museum went on to start its own radio program, the Alele Program, that was aired weekly. Through this program, women for the first time were given a voice and were heard throughout the nation. Topics such as women's roles and responsibilities, and issues and concerns they faced in their daily lives were discussed.

Women United Together in Marshall Islands (WUTMI)