Keynote Address by Minister for Natural Resources – Niue, Hon. Mona Ainuu
Delivered at the Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting
Suva, Fiji, 31 August 2023
Honourable Vice President Sengebau
Chair Honourable Rose Brown
Excellency High Commissioners and Ambassadors
Secretary General Mr Henry Puna
The Ambassadors for Women and Girls
Distinguished Delegates from Forum Member countries
Ladies and Gentlemen
Fakaalofa lahi atu ke he higoa he ha tautolu a Iki ko Iesu Keriso kua maeke ia ia ke takitaki mafola mai a tautolu oti ke he motu Fulufuluola nai ko Fisi.
Warm Pacific greetings to our Beautiful flowers and the Toa Moanas of the Blue Pacific Continent.
At the outset I would like to acknowledge and pay tribute to the ancestors and leaders of these lands past and present for allowing this important talanoa to take place within these compounds
It is my honour and privilege to deliver the keynote address at this second Pacific Islands Forum Women Leaders Meeting.
Indeed, it is wonderful that the meeting is held in person as I know COVID-19 travel restrictions kept the meeting a virtual one last year. It is very inspiring to hear that agents of change from across the region are gathered in this room – those from our region’s political spaces, from civil society, and the amazing young people who are representing youth from their sub-regions! It is indeed a wonderful gathering of some familiar faces and some new friendships that I know we will forge this week.
I am particularly thrilled also that the policy dialogue today includes youth delegates. I understand that this is a first for any of the Forum meetings. Involving youth voices through inclusive and meaningful dialogue and engagement in our regional policy processes can only yield positive outcomes.
I can only say that we are on the cusp of true and meaningful change in our beautiful Blue Pacific.
As the Pacific Political Climate Champion for Gender and Social Inclusion (GESI), I have the honour of representing our region and GESI issues on the world stage and especially in our own regional dialogues because as my grandmother used to say, MONA don’t shine bright walking on the road when your house is messy I think it sounded better in Niuean but you know what I mean’’’’So as much as I wish to wear my shiny earings and bright lipstick out on the world stage it is more meaningful and important ALSO for me to help what I can in the pacific to promote and develop our vision. As we all know we share a very unique relationship with our cultural understanding, AND when we see it is necessary to make changes to adapt to circumstances, we will do it and this is the TIME to DO it.
We all know we need to highlight the topic of inclusivity, to empower women and girls and enable our marganilized people through meaningful participation, in all aspects of life, including engagement in climate change action, decision making and leadership.
I am fully invested in this role:
For me, it is an important opportunity to recognise our women and children and those who are often overlooked, persons with disabilities and older persons, and how climate change affects them. I whole heartedly embrace and applaud decisions that derives from OUR peoples experiences.
Yesterday I was so fortunate to meet a ALL WOMEN FISHING CREW, I AM sure it’s a first in the region, maybe in the world, and I know Director General Dr Manu Tupou Roosen will tell that story in her presentation. What a absolute inspiring story of the Pacific Women and Girls, taking on roles mainly dominated by our men. These are stories we need to tell, because we should make decisions from experiences and lessons learned, because that is how our ancestors have done it for so many years. We learned from our ancestors who made decisions from experiences and we teach our young the same values and understandings.
We should APPLAUD those who are pillars of households and communities. Our Women, those who carry life, those who nurture life, those who are there before, during and after life impacting events. Those who are much more impacted because of their mobility or those who experience the difficulties and challenges without complains because they are trying to live.
Excellencies, as the threat of climate change envelops us, I cannot stress enough the significance of integrating climate change into the various sectors to allow all Pacific people, not just women and girls, to strengthen whole-of community resilience. I have been to 7 high level Ministerial meetings with different agendas in the last couple of weeks this is the eighth but one topic that continues to emphasize those discussions involve climate change, at parliament, at fisheries at meteorology, at community lead events, and today at the women leaders forum, and I am so glad to see so many women and most will know, been the only woman in many of the Ministerial meetings in areas dominated by men, is okay, but we need to allow our women to be at the table. We have only 40 women Parliamentarians in the Pacific and we need you to be the 40 or more sitting at some of the critical discussions.
At this juncture I would like for us to acknowledge our support for women leaders who are leading roles that have been predominantly held by men. There are too many to acknowledge individually but I applaud each and everyone of you.
Climate change, gender inequality and social exclusion are interwoven challenges. The Blue Pacific Continent and the world will not meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, or any other goal, without the full contribution of women and girls, persons with disabilities, young people and our older citizens.
Pacific island countries have committed to a gender-responsive and socially inclusive approach to the climate crisis. One that recognises women’s and marginalized groups’ agency, knowledge and leadership.
It is important to ensure and facilitate their active, meaningful participation in all stages of climate change and disaster actions. This is so any funding, actions and support is to reach and meet the needs of the most marginalized and the grass roots community. In turn making greater impacts for our people.
This includes Education: an important aspect of knowledge, learning and awareness for young Pacific children and youth especially in relation to the climate change crisis
Health: having appropriate, accessible, quality and affordable healthcare as we face the effects of climate change and other shocks; and Finance: for planning and appropriate resource allocation that supports our people and their needs including simplified access to climate finance.
2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent
This is a watershed moment for us in the Pacific. In recognising the challenges and the potential of the region, Forum Leaders have led the way for us to determine the need to chart our own course, on our own terms. Their endorsement of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent as the blueprint to advance Pacific regionalism for the next three decades – articulates the region’s long-term vision, values, and thematic priorities.
I know the work underway to develop the implementation plan and monitoring framework for the Strategy has been an inclusive, consultative, and robust process, firmly centred on the needs and aspirations of our Pacific people. In doing so, it is important to recognise our women and children in all that we do.
Accelerating gender equality and social inclusion is critical to the realisation of our 2050 vision and ensures all Pacific peoples are empowered to fully participate and benefit from development outcomes.
Thinking back on my own story, becoming a political leader in my country, Niue, and taking on the mantle of Pacific Political Climate Champion on Gender and Social Inclusion, I strongly believe that women and girls, in all their diversity, are capable of any leadership and decision-making roles of their own choosing including political leadership and need to be provided with the enabling environment to attain leadership positions.
As policymakers and legislators in our own countries, we must be the change we wish to see in our region whether it is through identifying measures to increase women’s participation at all levels of leadership and decision-making including political representation. senior positions in the public and private sectors and within local and communal governance systems – right across the leadership spectrum.
Engaging young Pacific people
Excellencies, I am a strong advocate for empowering Pacific youth. Half of the Pacific population is under 25. There are many young people who are not waiting for tomorrow – they are leading the way today! In the fight against climate change, in the plans for Disaster Risk Reduction, and in the ongoing push for gender equality and social inclusion – they are the passionate advocates who will steer this Vaka for us as we make our way to 2050.
I gladly recall that Forum Leaders recognise the need to create space for young people to meaningfully participate and contribute to decisions that will affect their future. I am so pleased that we have youth representing our sub-regions. I wish you abundance of positive strength to carry the flags of each country in your sub-region through your aspirations of leadership and agents of change. Women and girls, in all their diversity, are already leaders in their communities and can be pow¬erful agents of change. Efforts must be made to ensure that they are meaningfully represented in decision-making spaces and that their contributions are considered. In saying this, I fully recognise the importance of engaging men and boys to progress gender equality and social inclusion.
As women, and importantly as leaders, we have so much to give. Unfortunately, for many of our women across the region, they have very limited opportunities or spaces to share what they think. We need to make sure that they have access to those opportunities and spaces; and if they’re not there, well, it’s time that we create them for ourselves.
In true Pacific fashion, there is time for talanoa and there is time for action. Let us dare to be innovative without compromising what we believe in. Let us find ways to work together to support those who need it. I wish you every success as you deliberate and discuss these two days. May the outcomes of this important convening continue to drive the work that is underway for a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and prosperity.
Fakaaue Lahi Kia fakamonuina mai he Atua.