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Amplifying the voice of indigenous women in science

Tuesday 14 February 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Environment, Local, National

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Amplifying the voice of indigenous women in science
Charlene Akaruru supporting University of Auckland and Otago Museum at the first Science Expo in Rarotonga 2022. CLIMATE CHANGE CI/23021240

Climate Change Cook Islands celebrated International Day of Women and Girls in Science, on February 11, 2023, acknowledging the indigenous women who are key members of the team, key partners and have contributed to the organisation over the past few years.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is an annual observance adopted by the United Nations General Assembly to promote the full and equal access and participation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields celebrated on February 11.

UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres in a statement said: “I urge commitment to end bias, greater investments in STEM education for all women and girls as well as opportunities for their careers and long-term professional advancement so that all can benefit from their ground-breaking future contributions.”

In the Cook Islands, Celine Dyer, the Cook Islands Climate Change coordinator, said they acknowledge all those who have empowered and inspired youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Arts (STEAM) fields, during their Science Expos in Rarotonga and Aitutaki last year and especially in the climate change workshops, activities and projects. 

“Our indigenous women are the foundation of our homes and upskill, build capacity of our youth and community,” said Dyer.

The Climate Change Cook Islands current team members, the indigenous women in science, are: Celine Dyer, Climate Change Coordinator; Yvette Moeroa Turua, Climate Change Intern; Charlene Akaruru, Climate Change Intern; Krystina Kauvai-Tatuava, Climate Change Advisor and Consultant; Melina Tuiravakai, Change Consultant; Tangimama Vavia-Harry, Climate Change Focal Point Mangaia; Mereana Bishop, Climate Change Focal Point Aitutaki; Linda Siegele; Dr Christina Newport, Climate Change Consultant; Pua Hunter, ICT Director Office of the Prime Minister; and Cook Islands Women/ Kumiti Au Vaine - Maara Kenning, Nga Papatua, and Lydia Sijp.

“Indigenous women are holders of scientific and technical knowledge,” says Climate Change consultant Melina Tuiravakai. “They are key and instrumental in the traditional knowledge of water, land, ocean, sky, flora and fauna, traditional teachings and practices from medicines, legends, arts, planting, fishing and food gathering practices, as well as the preservation of culture and language.”

“We must continue to empower each of them and provide platforms for them to inspire and transfer their knowledge to our youth, communities and others,” said Tuiravakai.

“Women are key stakeholders in implementing projects, training and events and we acknowledge the phenomenal work that all our indigenous women who work and partner with our office.”

Tuiravakai also acknowledged Tessa Vaetoru, Vaine Nooana-Arioka, Elizabeth Koteka, Ana Tiraa, Diane McFadzien, Alex King Photography, Nanette Woonton, Audrey Brown-Pereira, Lisa Williams-Lahari, Alanna Smith, Vaine Wichman and many more, who are also indigenous Cook Islands women leading the charge in climate change work/projects/activities/negotiations, nationally and internationally.