Women leading climate change action

"Somehow, everywhere I went, whether it be negotiations, community projects, writing a story about climate change, there was always a woman leading, there was always a woman who was a key part of that initiative."

Lagipoiva Cherelle Jackson is a journalist by trade. She looks at the world through a critical lens, observing everything. So when she noticed that leaders in the climate change action space in the Pacific and around the world, were largely women, she saw an opportunity to build a network.

Women in Climate Change (WICC) was born. It is a knowledge sharing space between women at work, who care about climate change and the measures they can put in place to adapt to rapid change.

The group is filled with movers and shakers from across not only climate work, but the private sector and civil society, which proves how women are succeeding in the leadership space of Samoa, Lagipoiva said. And globally, she is seeing a trend of women working at the highest level of climate change policy and decision making, especially in the Pacific. 

"If you go into climate conventions, most of the negotiators were women, and a lot of the advisers to high level officials were also women. It's one of those inspirational things you see, and I decided to explore those two things put together," Lagipoiva said.

"Why did it happen to be women? It's all merit based. All these women are extremely qualified, professional, some driven by passion but mostly career public servants or high level officers in NGO's and private sector.

"Women of extraordinary abilities, talent and academic accomplishments were naturally leading delegations, leading negotiations on behalf of their countries, and that was inspirational for me."

Among the women of WICC, there are some "pioneers" in climate change solutions, Lagipoiva said. 

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Bank South Pacific's Taitu'uga Maryann Lameko-Vaai instituted a grace period for loans in the aftermath of Cyclone Gita in February 2019, for example.

"That's one of the first products I have personally seen here, and she was part of our first WICC climate change round table.

"Samoa Stationary and Books did a HP take-back program. To me, that is pioneering corporate social responsibility right there, they have brought in a massive corporation to take back their toners and [Samoa is] actually the first Pacific island to be part of the HP Global Green program," Lagipoiva said.

As a group, sharing their ideas and resources, women (and society) can achieve more than in isolation, she believes.

No matter what field they are in, women are taking action where they can against the impacts of climate change. It is an inherently female act, Lagipoiva said.

"You have this care that goes outside of your self, of your interests.

"We tend to be stereotyped as multi-taskers, so you will see women who are leaders in one area who also pursue interests in other areas. My background is in journalism, but through my interest in reporting on climate change I naturally came to look at integrating gender into that perspective."

On international women's day, Lagipoiva said she is thinking about how much women have achieved to enable her to do the work she does today, in journalism, research and climate change. In Samoa, the stage is set for women to follow in the Goddess Nafanua's footsteps, she said.

"I am so proud of being from a culture that is so proud. Being a Samoan woman is both empowering and also grounding, in that you have a sense of place and identity that is rooted in the history and culture, and the warrior princesses that came before us."

But there is work to be done still, with domestic violence, and "the fact that women in the village continue to have a certain place that is not necessarily in leadership roles," Lagipoiva said.

"But in the environment sector, I am so immensely proud of the work that woman have done, and continue to do."

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