As part of our ongoing efforts to promote women’s leadership in addressing climate change, I’m pleased to announce that the State Department will be sending 12 extraordinary Pacific women to the United States for a two-week study tour in August. I am particularly delighted that all four of the nominees that I submitted have been included in the program — Kahealani Hekau of Niue, Ulamila Wragg of the Cook Islands, Anne Rasmussen of Samoa, and Charlotte Severne of New Zealand.
The program will bring together a diverse cross-section of women leaders from the Pacific region who are active in climate and environment issues. The trip will allow these leaders to network with other policy-makers and experts, learn about innovative efforts to address climate change and advance sustainable development technologies, and brainstorm about how further to engage and mobilize women and girls on such issues when they return home.
The participants will convene in Washington for policy discussions and then disperse to other cities for meetings and tours in their individual fields of focus. The participants will reconvene in Honolulu to share information, discuss lessons learned, and consider potential action plans. Over the course of the trip, participants will meet with many American women active in climate change, energy, and development issues in federal, State, and local governments, the private sector, academia, think tanks, and NGOs.
I’ll write in more detail about the program when the women return, and perhaps I’ll be able to induce one or more of our travelers to talk on video about their experiences. For now, I’d like to introduce our four participants:
Charlotte Severne has deep expertise in energy and natural resource issues and is a leading proponent of clean energy technologies.
She worked for 12 years as chief scientist for oceans research and Maori development at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), leaving recently to open her own consulting business.
Throughout her career Charlotte has served on the boards of numerous Maori organizations including geothermal peer review panels, bioethics councils, and forest trusts.
Samoa’s top expert on climate change, Anne Rasmussen has more than a decade of experience in the Samoan government on environmental issues.
Currently, she works at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE). Among other roles, she serves as project manager for climate change initiatives and as the climate negotiator for Samoa and the Alliance of Small Island States.
She has also been a negotiator for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), demonstrating very impressive leadership and organizational skills in working effectively across government agencies and with international partners.
Ulamila Wragg is engaged in a variety of projects focused on advancing women’s empowerment in matters of the environment. She previously worked for almost 20 years in the mainstream media.
She negotiated for the Cook Islands at the UNFCCC and has been involved in Group of 77 activities. This year she peer-reviewed the regional Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s gender and climate change adaptation tool kit.
A co-founder of the Pacific Gender Climate Coalition in the Cook Islands, she conducts gender and climate change training for policy makers and NGOs in the Cooks.
A graduate of Victoria University of Wellington and the University of the South Pacific (in Vanuatu), Kahealani Hekau served as legal counsel for the Niue Climate Change Project before establishing her own law firm.
She has worked with advocacy groups in the Pacific region to build detailed case studies on the impact of climate change which have subsequently been used at gender and climate change workshops not only locally but internationally.
A co-founder and board member of the Pacific Gender Climate Coalition, she is active in a variety of NGO activities related to public health as well as the environment.
I have not seen the bios of the women who will be attending the program from other countries, but I am sure that they are as skilled, committed, and interesting as our four participants. That will create an extraordinary opportunity for all involved.
Warm congratulations – and shortly, bon voyage – to Anne, Charlotte, Kahealani, and Ulamila. I very much look forward to hearing about their trip when they return.