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At a Glance: Women and Climate Change in Tonga

At a Glance: Women and Climate Change in Tonga by Lute Heivaha ‘Ofa-Ki-Arana Leki


In 2018, my journey as a Climate Change Activist began when I undertook the course ‘International Environmental Law’ as an online law student in USP Tonga Campus. I realized how much of an impact climate change has on our lives and how much of a difference we can make to mitigate those issues. In 2019, I was fortunate enough to come across the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC) in Vanuatu. I became interested in their campaigns and their comprehensive ideas with a common purpose to fight for their islands against the tides of climate change, which led me to join their cause.


Climate change was an abstract in high school; something that wasn’t as important to me back then, is important today and has become something worth fighting for. As a woman and youth activist, joining the PISFCC became a hope to ensure that my children and their children’s children will inherit a world of reduced climatic impacts; living with solemnity and without fear of the impacts of climate change.


At a glance, women in Tonga fight climate change in the shadows. Yet, vulnerability is one of the major setbacks they face in general. Why? Socio-cultural norms produce distinctive outcomes for women at opposite ends of the social hierarchy. For some women, these standards prevent them from performing their full potential for the benefit of society. Social norms coupled with childcare responsibilities prevent women from assisting in major climate change platforms and decision-making procedures. Thus, when a disaster hits, it becomes an additional stressor that magnifies vulnerability along with the unavailability of resources placing women and youth as the most affected faction of climate change.


Despite their vulnerability, there are a few women and youth that are seen as active and effective agents and advocates of climate change adaptation and mitigation. For some time, the Tongan Government has supported the empowerment of women at all ends of the social hierarchy. Customarily, women have developed traditional skills and knowledge relating to resource management and proficient mitigation application on climate change impacts. This awareness and capability contributed significantly to improving local robust abilities and substantial communal livelihoods.


Moreover, Women and Youth are seen as victims of climate change but they are also heroes who work in the shadow of climate change activities. They have the ability to influence society and be part of decision-making processes at all levels. For instance, the Tongan Government runs a program called the Youth Parliament. This program empowers youth to participate in decision-making and raise issues that they think are important to be addressed in society.


Women have the power of adaptation. Adaptation, for me, is a powerful drive behind the most inspirational women of society. Adapting to different personas of climate change is an effective tool that young people and women can use to fighting the issues of climate change. Using their talents and skillset to make a positive impact on society, family, and country.


As mentioned before, our campaigns under the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change Organization include educating and activating youth in the Pacific Island Countries to become aware of the issues of climate change and seeking an advisory opinion from the ICJ. Women and Youth have the ability to influence all levels of the societal hierarchy. Therefore, we call upon young influencers and young people across the Pacific Ocean and the world to join us in raising our voices and calling for an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ.


“Time is not a limit but it is a time of action today.”


(Photo credit: Missing Perspectives)


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About the Author

My name is Lute Heivaha ‘Ofa-Ki-Arana Leki. I am from the Kingdom of Tonga. I am a recent Law graduate from the University of the South Pacific, and I am a climate change activist. I am a member and current Executive Secretary for the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change – a group of students dedicated to taking the issues of climate change and human rights to the International Court of Justice. One of our campaigns includes educating and activating Pacific Island youth. We are committed to educating and activating all Pacific Islands Youth to become aware and to take action to help prevent and fight against climate change. You can follow us on Twitter: @pisfcc or visit our site: pisfcc.org to know more about our mission and campaigns.



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Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth supports all young people and their diversity in exercising their right to freedom of expression. Reach Not Preach platform serves as a safe space for all young people to share their take on the topic of climate change. The views expressed in the Reach Not Preach platform are those of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the United Nations Office of the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth and the United Nations.