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by Tagaloa Cooper-Halo

Acting Director General and Director Climate Change Resilience

Fakalofa lahi atu, Kia orana, Ran Annim, Lenwo, Kaselehlie, Mogethin, Ni Sa Bula Vinaka, Kam na Mauri, Iokwe, Ekamowir Omo, Bonjour, Faka’alofa lahi atu, Alii, Gude Tru, Talofa Lava, Halo Olketa, Taloha Ni, Malo ē Laumalie, Tālofa, Halo, Kia Ora and warm Pacific greetings!

On International Women’s Day (IWD) 8 March 2022, the women and all the staff at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) are delighted to join the rest of the world to commemorate this momentous occasion.

It’s a chance to reflect on the achievements of women across the board, measure the progress made in terms of gender equality and most importantly plan concrete steps for a better and brighter future; not just for women but also for everyone. I say this because gender equality is community empowerment and it is something that should not only be emphasised and highlighted on IWD, it should be for the other 364 days of the year. We commemorate this great occasion amidst so much uncertainty brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and global challenges before us. In the Pacific, these challenges are magnified by the adverse impact of climate change on our governments, communities, districts, villages and families. It is fitting therefore that the international theme for IWD 2022 is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.” It is a call for climate action for women, by women.

At SPREP, I am immensely proud of the tremendous work that has been done and continues to be done by all the women, who have dedicated their lives to serve their countries, the Pacific region and the rest of the world in different capacities in this organisation. Gender equality is at the heart of what we do at the Secretariat because we believe in women and their abilities to drive and influence change for a better environment. From our Senior Leadership Team all the way through our programmes and departments, women occupy many key roles not because of a gender quota that needs to be filled but they are there based on what they bring to the table and their ability to get the job done. We believe in the power of women to influence and drive change.

From the lens of climate change and the work we do at SPREP, we are pleased to note that the focus of International Women's Day recognises the vital link between gender, social equity and climate change. Two weeks ago. we were part of the “Climate Change Negotiations 101, in preparations for CSW66” talanoa, with other CROP agencies. On IWD2022, I want to revisit some points SPREP highlighted at the meeting because I believe they are extremely relevant and poignant. The theme of IWD2022 is a spotlight moment for women and climate change.  Ladies and gentlemen, climate change does not discriminate. It affects everyone and everything; it’s a reality we know so well in the Pacific. And just as there are differing degrees in which small islands are impacted by climate change, so too is the degree of impact on women and girls.

At the workshop, we highlighted the need to seek and understand the intricacies and nuances for developing and navigating a pathway, which enhances and focuses a spotlight on the gender imperative for greater visibility and inclusion within the mainstream debate on climate change. Our talanoa echoed sentiments on the steps taken so far, and further steps required to ensure the issue of climate change and gender is mainstreamed and streamlined in our planning and policy processes at national, sub-national and community levels. In acknowledging that such steps have been taken throughout our Pacific countries, we also recognise that more work is required to ensure that actions for enhancing the gender imperative within the global context through international policy instruments such as the UNFCCC, and its mechanisms, are mainstreamed across all climate relative instruments. There are many intricacies and nuances requiring thorough and in-depth understanding within the UNFCCC process, and only when equipped with such an understanding can we progress solid positions on Mitigation, Adaptation, Loss and Damage, Finance, Oceans, and Climate Security. To which end I strongly believe the discussions we had then, can be viewed as our initial steps for delivering and enhancing knowledge and understanding.

 Today, I want to reiterate how critically important Advocacy and Engagement is for enhancing our Pacific voice on climate change, with the inclusion of climate change impacts on women in and of the Pacific. The 66th Installment of the Commission on the Status of Women will convene in March with COP27 scheduled for November. Both platforms offer up the opportunity for conveying and amplifying our Pacific voice on the continued impacts and adverse effects of climate change on our Islands and our people. But we must profess with great emphasis the disproportion of such impacts on our islands but rally behind and place in the foreground its disproportion on women and girls.

 Let me again state very clearly that without gender equality, a sustainable future, an equal future, will only be a dream. Since the world has recognised that women and girls bear the burden of climate impacts, we must recognise that they are also essential to leading and driving change in climate adaption, mitigation and solutions. Increasing opportunities for women makes good sense, as sustainable development in the Pacific will not be achieved unless women are fully involved in all aspects of the management and protection of our Pacific environment.

Happy International Women’s Day 2022, oue tulou!