LIHUE — “Nevertheless, she persisted,” was the theme of a Women’s History Month event hosted by the Committee on the Status of Women.
It was fitting.
Two Kauai women, Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura and Fifth Circuit Per Diem Judge Laurel Loo, were honored for overcoming personal and professional obstacles.
Both are of the mindset, never give up, never surrender.
“We’re honoring Women’s History Month and it’s fascinating for me to be associated with history, because I can remember when people thought I was too young to be a councilmember and too young to be a mayor,” Yukimura said during the meeting at the Regency at Puakea.
Middle and high school girls working on creating a website and blog focusing on women’s empowerment said they were inspired by Loo’s and Yukimura’s stories Wednesday.
“It’s good to know what other women have been through and what we can do to make a change in our country and the way it goes,” said Ruby Mariposa, 14, who attends Kapaa High School.
One issue most concerning for Mariposa is equal pay.
“We want to be treated the same, especially in wages, because we’re the main providers for our family, so it’s really different. We want to make a change,” Mariposa said.
Loo and Yukimura did.
Loo graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Hawaii-Manoa and began her career as a journalist with the Honolulu Advertiser.
But at work one day, Loo was struck by a blinding headache, and was later diagnosed with a brain aneurysm. At 25, she had to relearn to walk and talk and read and write.
It was during her recovery that she decided to shake things up and attend law school. She never looked back.
“Perseverance,” Loo said to about 70 people, “means to persist, to carry on, to stand one’s ground, to not take no for an answer, to go the distance.”
When she first ran for mayor, Yukimura said she was 30 years old, so she had to work hard to look older. That’s when she started wearing makeup, stopped wearing miniskirts and stopped riding her bike.
On her third try in 1988, she was elected mayor of Kauai. She was the first Japanese-American woman mayor in the United States.
“Over the ages, history has been dominated by his story and tonight we get to hear her stories,” Yukimura said.
Of those who had the biggest influence on her life, Yukimura cited her teachers and her mother.
“My mother taught me to love people and conversely, not to be afraid of people, except Republicans,” Yukimura said. “That’s a joke of course, because there are good Republicans.”
Kapaa High School sophomore Kiauna Haroldson, 15, said she attended the event with her youth group because one of their focuses is women’s empowerment.
“We want our voices to be heard,” Haroldson said. “We’re establishing what we want the world to know about us.”
One of the biggest issues Haroldson said women face on a daily basis, and she sees it in school, is harassment and cat calling. When she witnesses these behaviors, she said she calls it out, which at times makes her come off too strongly.
“It’s morally correct to call it out,” Haroldson said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Josal Najera Nabas, 13, said she has already struggled with a drug abuse issue due to peer pressure.
“I got over it. That’s why I came here today. I’m learning about it so I can inspire people and share with people my experiences of what happened to me,” she said.
Karin Medigovich said she was inspired by both women.
“There are those of us privileged to have great families. You can’t really choose that, but you can choose perseverance,” she said.