Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion at COP27
Speech by the Pacific Gender Equality, Social Inclusion and Adaptation Champion
Honourable Esa Mona Faitala Ainu’u
COP27 side event: Women and Girls at the center of any climate change action
Fakaalofa Lahi Atu and Asalam Alaikum. Warm Pacific greetings. It is my great pleasure and honour to be with you here today for this talanoa on the importance of including women, girls, and other marginalized communities in any climate change action.
At the outset, let me acknowledge the Pacific regional Gender Technical Working Group and the One CROP Team for bringing us together today. I am encouraged to see the collaboration and coordination to support our Pacific peoples.
Ladies and gentlemen, we know that climate change has a disproportionate impact on women, girls, children, persons with disabilities, youth, older persons, and other marginalized communities, and so it is imperative that their voices are included in all actions, responses, articles, and negotiations at COP27 and other decision-making platforms.
The Blue Pacific has made a commitment to accelerate efforts to progress gender equality and social inclusion. Our Leaders have reiterated this commitment through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, and the revitalization of the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration – which keeps our people at the centre of any development and action toward a socially inclusive, resilient, safe, and secure Blue Pacific Continent.
Women are important custodians of traditional knowledge and natural resources YET they continue to face challenges in relation to access to land and accessing financial resources. For these reasons and more, it is important that at COP27, we must ensure that climate finance is gender-responsive, inclusive, and accessible.
We all know the economic costs that comes with climate change, but the social impacts are much more wide-ranging. Women are on the frontlines of this existential threat each day and face specific challenges including a heightened risk of gender-based violence during and following disasters, including exposure to sexual violence and exploitation. Women find it harder to access financial support to adequately prepare for or recover from natural disasters. Not to mention, the limited access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as mental health and psychosocial support.
Despite the challenges women and girls, in all their diversity, have no time to waste, we need to carry on.
Pacific women do what they can with what they have and what they already know. Our sisters continue to draw on traditional and indigenous knowledge to respond to the impacts of climate change. Our traditional support systems continue to hold us together, to provide care and assistance when formal mechanisms do not reach those who need them the most.
This is why we must value and support traditional and indigenous knowledge and incorporate them wherever possible into policies and strategies to ensure that solutions are holistic, inclusive and people centered.
Women in the Marshall Islands use a traditional technique of planting mangroves and pandanus to prevent coastal erosion and women in the Federated States of Micronesia use traditional practices of drying and fermenting food during droughts.
The ocean is our identity, our livelihood, and our culture but many of our children and young people are already experiencing firsthand sea level rise, eroding coastlines and saltwater intrusion. In Kiribati young children cannot eat nutritious food because saltwater has destroyed their crops. This invariably leads to a whole host of health and developmental challenges that can affect an entire generation.
Each island faces different challenges, and for me as a mother who lives with a 11-year-old daughter and 78-year-old mother, accessing local seafood and local food in general is a challenge. I am constantly trying to justify to a 11-year-old curious mind, why the sea we frequently visit has dramatically changed in design and what’s available within the shores. That the seashells and fish numbers that her, and I dive for are slowly decreasing. That the sea urchins and corals are dying because of the warm temperatures of the water. And the heartbreaking response of “Why don’t they feel sorry for us mummy? Did their parents do not teach them what you and Nena taught me to be kind to our world and our people, and maybe when you go to your meetings you can ask them to come, to visit us and see for themselves, maybe they will feel sorry for us and stop what they’re doing”. For a mother to hear those innocent thoughts, it breaks your heart tremendously.
I will not be the only mother in the Pacific who would have felt the innocence of our young and we will not be the only mothers who continue to be heartbroken by the helplessness of not being able to fix the problem.
For us in the islands, our environment is intrinsically linked to our culture and traditions and our daily livelihood. When our environment is destroyed because of climate change, when our food sources are affected, when our natural resources are affected – it can have detrimental effects, not only on women but on their families and communities. Many of our children and young people are condemned to an uncertain future if actions are not taken to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
We must act decisively and immediately to ensure that our children and young people are given the future that they deserve.
I wish the panelists well in the talanoa today and I look forward to what I know will be a meaningful and fruitful session.
Thank you. –ENDS/CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY