Day two of the forum belonged to the Pacific and to its women in particular. The day was packed with performances, workshops, panel discussions and presenters but it was the closing plenary that provided the highlight of the day. Two very strong, inspiring Pacific women stood up to highlight how climate change is affecting their islands and what they are doing about it.
There were some incredible presenters billed for day two including co founder of 350.org Bill Mckibben, who amongst other things spoke of the specific vulnerability of the pacific region to climate change and Dayle Takitimu who spoke of battling environmental issues from a legal perspective. However, it was Claire from Kiribati and 14 year old Brianna from Samoa that stole the limelight.
Claire evoked an emotional response from the crowd as she discussed her pride in her culture and the very real threat from climate change that the people of Kiribati are facing. She outlined the effects on food and water security, economic pressures, as well as the overarching fear that her homeland will eventually be completely swamped by water. The defining point was that in the face of all of this Claire remains optimistic; faithful that if things are changed her culture and national identity can be saved.
Although Claire proved a hard act to follow, Brianna put a smile on everyone’s face by showing that age is no barrier to activism and “being an agent of change is cool”. Brianna inspired us all with her impressive work on raising awareness and fostering change in her native Samoa and around the world.
In a region that still struggles with gender inequality and a lack of safe spaces for women’s voices to be heard, it was extremely inspiring to see such strength and passion from these two beautiful women.