A woman on Tongariki preparing food for her family, after cyclone Pam. At that time garden crops were damaged and limited.

Delegates from the Pacific Region, including Vanuatu, have been urged to ensure women’s voices are heard in climate change discussions and inclusion when decisions about climate policy and financial flow are made.

This call was echoed by Niue’s only female parliamentarian and Minister for Natural Resources, Mona Ainu’u, at a talonoa on the importance of including women, girls, and other marginalized communities in climate change action during a side event on gender at COP27 climate change summit.

Ainu’u said that it is imperative that their voices are included in all actions, responses, articles, negotiations at COP27 and other decision-making platforms, adding that women are on the frontlines of this existential threat each day and face specific challenges including a heightened risk of gender-based violence during and following disasters, including exposure to sexual violence and exploitation.

“Women find it harder to access financial support to adequately prepare for or recover from natural disasters. Not to mention, the limited access to sexual and reproductive health services as well as mental health and psychosocial support,” she said.

In Vanuatu, women make up majority of the population. They are first responders during disasters caring for their communities, evacuating families, children, the injured, the elderly, people with disability and ensuring their families have enough food and water. However, they face inequalities combatting climate change while bearing the brunt of impact.

Director for Vanuatu’s Department of Women’s Affairs, Rothina Noka, said climate change and disasters affect the roles of women and men differently.

“We know that during disasters we have contamination of water and women walk too far to collect water. These are the times when their security is infringed, they become vulnerable to abuse and violence exacerbate and they expected to continue playing that role when there’s a disaster,” Noka stressed.

Speaking on behalf of women in the Pacific, Viva Tatawaqa of Diverse Voices and Action for Equity Fiji, emphasized the important role of women play as custodians of traditional knowledge and natural resources in all the pacific communities.

“Women are always at the forefront of building back homes and communities. Financing loss and damage is really about assisting and making sure that we survive climate-related catastrophe in the Pacific,” Tatawaqa said.