This story has come from an interview for International Women’s Day 2022 which took place online between Maven’s Tammy McGowan, and Arieta Tominiko, a student who is deaf and studying at Kiribati Institute of Technology (KIT). KIT is supported through the Kiribati Facility.
Written by Tammy McGowan.
‘Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with an emerging leader to celebrate the 2022 International Women’s Day. I spoke with Arieta, a young, deaf woman living in Kiribati, who has spent her life trying to #breakthebias
Arieta Tominiko is a student at Kiribati Institute of Technology (KIT). Arieta spoke with me about being female in her country and the power that opportunities like KIT can provide to support women with disabilities to achieve their goals.
From a young age Arieta realised that people could underestimate her abilities and limit her opportunities, based on her deafness. She did not have role models to look to who were deaf and working in leadership roles. In her country, deaf people have traditionally worked in manual labour and have generally not had opportunities to work in academic or business settings. Arieta explained;
“We can do everything. We can work as hearing people. We can work in offices, we can work in public places.”
Arieta was one of the first deaf students in her country to be transitioned into mainstream classes in Kiribati. Arieta understood the opportunity to advance academically was a unique privilege. She studied hard and generously reached out to hearing students to make new friends. Arieta taught her new friends to use Kiri Sign language to communicate and challenged preconceptions about deaf individuals’ ability to learn and join in groups designed for hearing people.
Arieta knew she could positively influence the way people who met her understood disability, particularly deafness. She has always felt responsible for teaching others about deafness and advocating for everyone’s rights to participate fully in society, especially in education and the workplace. Arieta dreams of living in a country where sign language is included in the syllabus so deaf people can communicate freely, and where children can grow up seeing people with disabilities working in every type of job, without limitation.
“I want to teach everyone [Kiri Sign language] so it can be on the school syllabus. So everyone can learn sign language and whenever you meet a deaf person you can talk with them,” said Arieta.
Arieta wants people to know that having places like KIT invest in her and believe in her, has impacted her life. She wants to use the skills she has developed to teach sign language as a career in her country, and to use her academic knowledge to benefit the deaf community. With the support of the Institute and the Kiribati Facility, Arieta can continue her work as an advocate for people with disability and encourage other girls and women to dream of a better life where equality is expected for everyone. Arieta would like “to join the government, in a secure job, and work as a teacher to teach people sign language. Yes, I want to be a teacher here in Kiribati. I want to work in offices and in public places.”