Cinzia Pedrotti, who was born and raised in Italy, says her work on the main island of Tarawa focused on combating violence against women.
She says she wanted to help make a difference.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Australian Youth Ambassador in Kiribati, Cinzia Pedrotti
PEDROTTI: Well I wanted to pursue a career in international development, so after my Masters in International Development it was a very good thing to do, to actually work and gain experience in developing countries.
HILL: So why Kiribati?
PEDROTTI: When you apply for an AYA placement, you apply for the role mainly, so there are roles advertised. You find what it's more relevant to your skills and experiences and then you apply for that. So I found this role in Kiribati that it was really, it seemed to me very interesting, and I applied for it.
HILL: So what was this role?
PEDROTTI: It was a role about working with the Women's Development Division, which is a division of the Minister of Internal and Social Affairs in Kiribati, working on gender equality and promoting gender equality and trying to tackle the issue of domestic violence and gender-based violence in the country.
HILL: And that's a big problem, isn't it, all across the Pacific?
PEDROTTI: Yes, yes, but mainly in Kiribati. A study was, the findings of a study was released in 2010, and this study found that about 68% of women between 15 and 48 who ever been in a relationship, experience family violence.
HILL: When you're over there doing this kind of work, was there any sort of resentment saying that you're an Australian, you're an Italian-Australian, you're a foreigner, you're not from here. You don't understand our culture, you're trying to impose your ideas on us?
PEDROTTI: Look, being in Kiribati as AYA, it's really about working with the locals and working with the local counterpart, so you never go out and tell people what to do. Still, generally speaking, there was a bit of the idea sometimes that trying to change the gender-based violence in the country was trying to import Western values. This was felt by some people, by the most conservative people, of course, but the Women's Development Division is staffed by local people, so that's really not the point.
HILL: Well, how do the local women feel about it?
PEDROTTI: Generally speaking, women are not happy with the condition, with the level of violence experienced, but we're also talking about an environment where violence is starting to be normalised in a sense, so it's always. Sometimes some women would internalise it as well, and so they would think well, I get bashed up, because I deserve it. Mmm.
HILL: I didn't have the food ready on the table in time when he came home. It must be my fault. I can help him. He can change?
PEDROTTI: Yeah, yeah.
HILL: Were you able to make a difference in your role do you think?
PEDROTTI: Well, to make a difference in, say for, like gender-based violence will take years and years. But I think that with the Women's Development division we've started to make a change. We are doing this Women's Development Division and myself, we work together to raise awareness of the issue and also raise awareness about what the law says about it and about the fact that it's not good and not fair and is not respectfully even. So yeah, I think we started to make a difference.
HILL: Was it a challenge living and working in a place like Kiribati, because you were born and raised in Italy and you lived in Australia for six or seven years. Moving from Italy and Australia is one thing, that's challenging enough, but moving to Kiribati, a Micronesian country, that would have been even more of a cultural gap?
PEDROTTI: Well, I didn't have, well I didn't have expectations really about how life was going to be in Kiribati. I was just open to things. Of course, I was going, I knew that it was going to be a bit harder, and when I was there I missed my hot showers and good food every now and then. But it's amazing to really think and understand how you can adapt to things and how flexible you can be.
HILL: Well, you were helping them with some things. Was there anything you learnt from people in Kiribati that you'll take back with you to Australia?
PEDROTTI: Eh, yes, it's living in a different environment and in Kiribati specific, and it was really good for me to understand more about diversity and to reflect and to rethink about the things that I take for granted, for instance, in the way I approach life, I approach work, I approach other people. So it was really, and it helped me with self-reflection and really understanding of diversity.
HILL: What's the main lesson that you learnt living in Kiribati?
PEDROTTI: I've learnt about taking it easy. The sun rises tomorrow to and you can do things, there is no need to do everything today.