During the “Young Women and Climate Change” training of trainers and regional consultation organised by the Shifting the Power Coalition with the support of the DFAT funded Australia Pacific Climate Partnership (APCP) participants worked together to identify ways they can organise at national and regional level to support a young women-led campaigns on addressing the climate change and disaster risk reduction nexus.
An inter-generational dialogue set the scene bringing together experiences from young women organising in Australia, across Asia-Pacific as well as disability rights activism.
“There is no one size fits all approach, build on your strengths,” said Ezreena Yahya of ActionAid Australia. “I’m inspired by the 350.org Pacific campaign, so use poetry and art – be creative! Never give up!”
It is vital to ensure inclusive participation and communication strategies enabling young women with disabilities to be included, empowered and engaged in the project, said Roberta Chan of the Fiji Disabled People’s Association, a member of the Pacific Disability Forum. Inclusive communication cannot take a one size fits all approach explaining each disability requires a specific inter-personal approach: “Sit down next to a person in a wheelchair, have a conversation with them. Include sign interpretation,” she said adding “We need to create safe space for young women with disabilities.” Chan highlighted how village outreach through Fiji Disabled People’s Federation (FDPF) programmes have found practical ways to build and create safe spaces support systems for young women are vital.
“Young women in our communities need greater recognition and at the same time we need to be supported to prepare and lead awareness especially when we have to speak up in front of our chiefs and leaders” added Fiona Frank from the ActionAid Vanuatu Woman I Tok Tok Tugeta network.
The regional training and consultation brought together close to 60 diverse women in national hubs hosted by Coalition partners in Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu as well as the YWCAs of Papua New Guinea and Samoa. The inter-generational dialogue heard how the World YWCA Rise UP! Programme ensures young women are not just involved but leading programmes:
“We have been encouraging young women to identify commonalities and shared interests to build social movements themselves” said Naomi Woyengu the World YWCA Rise Up! Asia-Pacific Regional Coordinator.
She offered advice on indigenous knowledge, building solidarity and preparing for policy engagement as the Shifting the Power Coalition aims to support young women’s organising this is an opportunity to co-create: “I think about my grandmother and the times I would sit with her and she would predict the weather. And as Pacific Islanders, we must remember the approaches and methods our foremothers have used. We have to revisit and use our indigenous knowledge. We need to mobilise collectively. We need collective energy across the islands. We need to also need to do our homework, do our research before we get to the table”
Lobbying together, added Woyengu, is a way to ensure that young women’s perspectives are included in political processes: “Prior to any fora, young women need to be involved in country level preparatory processes for regional and global spaces – make sure they see you and hear you. Speak for yourself!”
The training programme and consultation resulted in development of a Regional Young Women’s Call to Action! which will be featured in a short film to be released in January 2021.