By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Sharm El Sheikh
Pacific negotiators and political champions have rallied support and used every opportunity at side events and bilateral discussions to hone in on the six priority issues that all the Pacific Island Countries are collectively pushing for at COP27.
The new priority issue of gender and adaptation has gained a lot of traction in the week and half of the negotiations with support from governments, civil society, youth and women’s groups represented here at COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt.
Gender and Adaptation political champion, Honorable Minister Mona Ainu’u from Niue had one key message for Pacific negotiators – to ensure a simplified financial mechanism is made available to our women, local and indigenous communities as an outcome from COP27.
At a side event at the Moana Pacific Pavilion Monday, Minister Ainu’u emphasised the important role women play as custodians of traditional knowledge and natural resources in all our Pacific communities.
That is now recognised and elevated by Pacific Leaders in the new revitalisation of the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration that keeps people at the centre of any development and action in the Pacific.
“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, it is important that at COP27, we must ensure that climate finance is gender-responsive, inclusive, and accessible.
“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, the Pacific’s political champion on gender and adaptation outlined.
In the Pacific despite the challenges women and girls, in all their diversity, have no time to waste and continue to manage their roles.
“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, reminded Minister Ainu’u as her key messages in the negotiations.
Youth activist from Kiribati, Baniti Semilota said community leaders and elders are the best keepers of traditional knowledge and urged young people to ‘learn as much as they can from their elders now.’
“Our generation are living the reality of consequences of the impact of climate change and we need to learn how to cope using a lot of the traditional and cultural methods of coping. Stories from our elders are our only record,” said Senilota.
Viva Tatawaqa of Diverse Voices and Action for Equality in Fiji had one powerful message for the negotiators ‘Let’s not pretend that gender is not part of your work!
“Include and mainstream gender in your work. When you go back from COP27, who do you go back to iron your nice clothes, cook your food and get everything done for you. So let’s not pretend that gender is not part of your work, said Tatawaqa.
Papua New Guinea’s Eunice Dus, who is also one of the technical lead negotiators of gender for the Pacific assured they are pushing hard to have simplified access to climate finance for women, local and indigenous communities in the gender and climate change negotiating text.
“Simplified access is currently an option on the current text. We are hoping that whatever the final wording it will be, that our proposal of ‘simplified’ access to climate financing will remain,” said Dus of Papua New Guinea.
Vanuatu’s director general in the ministry of climate change, Esline Garaebiti welcomed the elevation of gender as one of the priorities for Pacific Small Island Developing States at COP27.
“As a woman who has been part of this process for a long time, it feels so good to see gender being part of the conversation and now on the negotiating text. From the beginning gender was not seriously considered but now having this on the actual negotiating text is a great move forward for our women and local and indigenous communities in the Pacific and around the world.
“The role of women in climate change is very important to ensure there is a balanced view on how to address climate change especially when it comes to resilience of our communities, sai Garaebiti.
Reflecting on the discussions and drawing from his own experiences, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna endorsed calls for women, local and indigenous communities to be supported through accessible and simplified financial mechanism that are available.
“Our women are at the forefront of climate change and they are resilient. They are the guardians of our traditional knowledge and in times of disaster, they fall back on their traditions and culture as a coping mechanism to protect their families and communities,” said Secretary-General Puna.
The Women and Girls, in all their diversity, at the centre of any climate change action side event was held at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion on 14 November 2022.
The 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27) is being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from 6 to 18 November 2022.