Pushing the gender boundary in Samoa

By Samisoni Pareti, Senior Editor, Islands Business, in New York

"The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the oceans domain, and over generations, our people have created an intimate relationship and a unique dependency on the ocean for our sustainable development, food security, social structures, livelihoods and tenure systems as well as traditional systems of stewardship governing its use. For us, the ocean is both a shared resource and a source of isolation. True, the ocean separates our islands but we also acknowledge that the ocean brings unity in a diverse and dynamically evolving world. It provides us with both opportunities and challenges, and is probably the one natural asset that all our islands have in common, and in abundant supply." - Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi Prime Minister of Samoa

6 June 207, UN Ocean Conference, New York - Samoa had two key messages for world leaders attending the second day of the United Nations conference on the oceans that the world body is hosting at its headquarters in this American metropolitan city this week.

Key statements were that the ocean could be a good breeding ground to push boundaries for gender equality, and that the lack of capacity or scientific know-how should not be used as excuses to deprive Pacific islanders from enjoying their rightful share of ocean resources.

Samoa's positions were delivered by its long serving Prime Minister and incoming chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday morning (New York time).

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Prime Minister of Samoa, Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoli'ai Sailele Malielegaoi. Photo: SPREP

"In an article in one of our newspapers titled "Women Ocean Leaders of Samoa" to commemorate this week's Ocean Conference, it shared the story of Captain Fealofani of our traditional double-hull voyaging canoe, the Gaualofa and how the crew is working in partnership with government ministries to implement awareness raising grassroots programmes in Samoa.

"The goal is to 'promote the revival of Samoan cultural traditions related to ocean sailing and navigation and the wise stewardship of the Pacific, encouraging conservation, protection, awareness, and preservation of the Pacific Ocean and island environments.'

"Of greater and special significance is the fact that the Captain of our traditional double-hull canoe is indeed a woman. This is a strong endorsement of our Samoan women's capacity and sheer determination to push the boundaries for gender equality. Captain Fealofani is quoted to have said 'the ocean needs us women to stand up for her, to speak up for her, to cause our men and other women to take better care of our ocean, to look after the ocean better.'

Tuilaepa did not specifically mentioned seabed mining but spoke in general terms about the Pacific's vulnerabilities. These however should not be seen as "the opportunity to harness our ocean resources optimally or a convenient distraction to deprive our people from enjoying their rightful share of those benefits."

"While everyone is quick to direct our attention to prioritise conservation above all else, which we have been doing voluntarily over the years, and will continue to do so unprompted; from our islands perspective, we also want to enjoy a greater and fairer share of the benefits derived from our ocean resources. After all, owners of other natural resources are doing exactly the same. Most are extracting the maximum benefit and influence possible from such natural resources provided this is done sustainably and effective management is in place."

Tuilaepa added Samoa has submitted a total of 12 voluntary commitments under the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 about ocean conservation and sustainable management. - #SaveOurOcean
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