8 Mar 2017 - International Women’s Day 2017: Be Bold for Change! Protecting our Ocean and Biodiversity
By Dr Netatua Pelesikoti, Director of the Climate Change Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). Dr Pelesikoti is the first Pacific Island Woman Lead Author for a chapter in the Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, specifically, Chapter 29 on Small Islands of the 5th AR of the IPCC. SPREP and the UN Environment Pacific Sub-regional Office have partnered to undertake a number of initiatives leading to the UN Ocean Conference in New York from 5 – 9 June this year. To find out more, please visit: https://www.sprep.org/pacific-voyage-un-ocean-conference-2017/home
“Our Ocean and its wealth, both living and non-living, belongs to us all, including our future generations. It is within our hands to wisely manage and conserve her resources, the basis of our Pacific livelihoods and cultures.
This International Women’s Day, we call upon you all to “Be bold for change”, more specifically, to “Be Bold for Change” to create what is best for the health and diversity of our ocean.
The Pacific islands are home to the world’s largest ocean. The Pacific Ocean is our lifeblood, covering nearly one-third of the Earth’s surface, home to approximately 30,000 islands. This year, as we navigate toward the UN Ocean Conference, the vital role of our ocean is in focus and the urgent and bold changes to the way we live with and protect our oceans are made all the more clear.
A partnership between SPREP and the UN Environment has helped weave a basket of knowledge about the important role of the Ocean. We share with you highlights from these Pacific Factsheets to show why we must never take our ocean or our biodiversity for granted.
• Healthy reefs are an important source of our food resources, making up approximately 70% of the protein in the diet of Pacific islanders through near-shore pelagic and inshore reef and lagoon fisheries.
• The restoration and protection of wetlands is the most cost-effective method for shoreline and coastal resilience as we experience the challenges of extreme weather and climate change.
• Some Pacific islands have four times greater sea-level rise than the global average of 3.2 millimetres sea level rise per year, with communities having been displaced and islands lost due to sea level rise.
• The Pacific Ocean is home to over half of the world’s whale and dolphin species.
• There are over 4,000 underwater cultural heritage sites in the Pacific.
• Healthy live animals bring value to the region. In Palau, the lifetime value of a live shark to the tourism industry has been estimated at USD 1.9 million. Globally, about 600,000 people spend over USD 300 million annually to watch sharks, supporting 10,000 jobs worldwide.
Unless we become bold for change for our ocean and biodiversity, we may lose her resources to the challenges of marine pollution and debris, climate change impacts and over-harvesting. We cannot ignore the value of our ocean and her biodiversity, and we must take action together to protect and conserve.
To commemorate the International Women’s Day this year, we are partnering with UN Environment to celebrate the women in our work areas, women who are working across a wide range of fields, women who believe and take action to be bold for change for the better of our ocean and biodiversity.
SPREP also ‘walks the talk’ with the enforcement of several enabling policies for gender, social and environmental safeguards mainstreaming into programme and project development and implementation.
Meet some of the women that are helping to make a difference, women that are being bold for change to create what is best for the health and diversity of our ocean! Happy International Women’s Day!” - #BeBoldForChange #IWD2017 #OceanWomen
Meet Women being bold for change to create what is best for the health and diversity of our ocean
Ms. Tagaloa Cooper Halo, Climate Change Institutional Strengthening Adviser at SPREP
“What I find most exciting about oceans and the Pacific Ocean in particular is that it is the one thing you cantouch that connects you to every other land and person in the Pacific. It is the one thing you can touch that transcends cultural identity, age, gender, social status and so forth. Our ocean is the common denominator¬— it feeds us, it teaches us how to fish, to swim….it’s a vehicle for our cultural activities and costumes, it is a source or point of social interaction that nurtures friendships and families.”
What is your message to Pacific women that are interested in your line of work?
“This is your Pacific, it will be your children’s Pacific – their foundation and first home, therefore it is your responsibility to guarantee them a Pacific future that is bright and proud. You have to trust yourself as the first teacher of character and leadership by applying for roles in this field or in SPREP. I always wanted to work in this field and I trusted myself enough to make career choices to ensure this was my path - to influence for the benefit of my region and of my children, after all it is where their foundation is, no matter where their life path may take them. If you don’t build self-belief and confidence that you can be a positive influence, well someone else is going to do it and advise you – you can’t really complain thereafter.”
Ms Petra Chan Tung, Finance and Administration Adviser, SPREP
“Growing up in the islands, the ocean basically means everything to us particularly reflecting our livelihood, our culture and what defines us. Our forefathers were ocean navigators themselves. In terms of my job, one of the greatest satisfactions come from being part of a team that is supporting initiatives to protect our environment, both land, air and sea not only for our time but most especially, sustaining it for generations to come which includes our children.”
What strategies do you use to balance your role as a female family member and your work? Or as a woman, what challenges have you faced in your education or work?
“Women in the Samoan society are the backbone for families and communities. In balancing my role as a female family member and work, as a sister and cousin, I play a prominent role in planning for the development of my family both the immediate as well as long distant relations. That is, I do make the time to be involved in the decision making for my family and equally share the responsibilities being tasked for each family member. As a mother, the skills learnt from observing my own mother over the years have automatically been inherited and I learned to prioritise family needs especially my children which ideally if in order, so will be the time and focus for work. In terms of challenges, fortunately for me, growing up in a society that respects and values the rights of women, I have not encountered any such difficulty with respect to gender when it comes to both work and education and thus I was able to compete equally and assessed on merits.”