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Women play a key role on the frontlines of disasters, working to ensure food security and safety of their families and communities. In recognition of the need for women in Pacific communities to have their voices heard, work is underway to build their empowerment during humanitarian responses.

‘Shifting the Power Coalition’ is an initiative that works to build the existing power and knowledge of women emergency responders. This month the Coalition facilitated the virtual Inception Workshop of the Shifting the Power Coalition: Pacific Young Women Responding to Climate Change project.

Ms Tagaloa Cooper, Climate Change Resilience Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), provided participants with an overview of SPREP’s climate change work in the Pacific region.

The Secretariat is the lead coordinating Pacific regional inter-governmental agency for climate change work. It supports Pacific islands in policy development, encourages Pacific leaders to be advocates, and has a range of projects and existing frameworks and charters which provide a clear path and direction for the Pacific to work together to achieve targets and goals set out nationally, regionally and globally.

“Working in climate change at SPREP, information knowledge management (IKM) is very important. We are investing heavily into IKM and brokerage, and while we see ourselves in the role of being an information broker, you as women in your communities also have a critical role to play in knowledge sharing and brokerage because you translate information into tools that meet the needs of the communities you work with,” presented Ms Cooper to the working.

“And that’s extremely important – you’re not just sharing information, you’re ensuring that the information meets the needs of your community.”

Ms Cooper encouraged the Pacific young women present at the meeting to continue striving to make changes for their families and communities, and to be involved in spaces and projects like Shifting the Power Coalition to ensure their voices are heard and included.

“I encourage you to be engaged in your national planning processes. SPREP is supporting the development of national adaptation proposals in four countries that will be submitted to the Green Climate Fund. This is an entry point for different groups like Shifting the Power Coalition to be engaged and seek membership, as well as civil society groups, private sector, and those who many not be normally be involved. Because we all know that even though a plan can be a very good plan, unless it is owned by the people who are to implement it, at all levels right down to the grassroots, the plan will never be used.”

The workshop closed on a strong note, with the re-emphasis of young women's leadership as vital in shaping and delivering an inclusive and ambitious climate change agenda.

Shifting the Power Coalition is an initiative that aims to support women to lead emergency response and take power back into their own hands. This means ensuring disaster response addresses women’s needs, and involves women during key decision making. It is supported by the Australian Government and ActionAid Australia, the coalition of organisations include femLINKpacific, Pacific Disability Forum, Pacific Community (SPC), Nazareth Centre, Talitha Project, Transcend Oceania, Vanuatu Young Women for Change, Vois Blong Mere, YWCA Samoa, YWCA PNG and ActionAid Vanuatu.

The Shifting the Power Coalition project will support diverse Pacific women’s agency, in particular rural women, young women, and those with disabilities, to gain access to climate services and information and be given a voice to influence climate change and disaster risk reduction decision making processes.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and SPREP have pledged to support a core group of young women from the Shifting the Power Coalition to attend and provide recommendations from their national networks to regional multi-stakeholder forums such as the Pacific Resilience Partnership Task Force, the Pacific Resilience Meeting, and the Pacific Meteorological Council.

For more information on the Shifting the Power Coalition please visit: https://actionaid.org.au/programs/shifting-the-power-coalition/ and follow them on facebook for more updates: https://www.facebook.com/shiftingthepowercoalition.

For additional information on the above article please contact us at [email protected].