These groups of islands have both differences as well as commonalities based on culture, social structure, and historical experience.
Populations migrating from other regions such as Africa and Asia began colonizing the islands over 35,000 years ago. Over the millennia, there were numerous encounters of the settlers with the outside world. Of over 6.3 million currently living in the Pacific Islands, the majority of the population of around 84% live in Melanesia, only around 9% live in Polynesia and approximately 7% live in Micronesia (Eccleston et al, 1998).
Melanesia is related to the Greek words melas which means black and nesos (islands); it refers to the “physical appearance of the indigenous inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and Solomon Islands” (Eccleston et al, 1998, p.249). Polynesia is related to the Greek word poly (many). It forms a triangular group of islands including Hawaii in the north, Aotearoa/ New Zealand in the south-west to Rapanul/ Easter Island in the south-east. The single culture in this unique triangle is reduced by the intrusion of colonialism. Indigenous Polynesians maintain effective sovereignty to some extent only in the inner islands, excluding the peripheral ones. Micronesia from micros (small) encompass the Northern Marianas in the north, Palau in the west, and Kiribati in the south-east. The smaller islands of Micronesia have societies similar to those in Polynesia; they are “ruled by indigenous hereditary aristocracies both before and after contact with colonial powers” (Eccleston et al, 1998, p.249). In comparison with Polynesia and Micronesia, in most of Melanesia with some exceptions like Fiji which is on the boundary, the societies are more egalitarian with equality among men; contrastingly however, gender inequalities are greater.
Originating from the Fujian province of southern China, seafaring people who spoke the Austronesian language, settled in the distant parts of Melanesia,