Study: Pacific women are important leaders for climate resilience

A study conducted by a team of researchers from The Nature Conservancy addresses the gaping holes existing within the Pacific’s climate adaptation research and natural resource management. Policymakers are becoming more aware of the need to include Pacific women in policy decisions about adaptation to climate change, but there remains room for improvement. 

The study’s lead researcher, Elizabeth Mcleod, wrote “Specifically, the perspectives of Pacific Island women are not included in the extensive literature on climate change. Excluding the input of Pacific Island women results in less robust and equitable climate change programs and policies, and may miss the significant contributions of women.”

Mcleod and her team identified women who served as local leaders in adaptation and conservation, then asked them to select other women in their communities who fit into criteria designed to represent a diverse population. Participants varied according to geographic location, socioeconomic status, education, and ethnicity. A total of nineteen women from Marshall Islands, Palau, Yap, Kosrae, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Papua New Guinea agreed to participate in a workshop where they were specifically asked how to address local issues like food and water security, human migration, and coastal protection.

The workshop resulted in several significant findings for the research world, but these findings are nothing new for those who inhabit the Pacific. One finding is that climate change often has a direct impact on Pacific women. Another finding is the value of sustaining traditional leadership, knowledge, practices, and skills. The workshop also highlights a need for women’s groups to facilitate training for policymaking and for more accessible funding and financial support. The workshop’s participants presented a variety of approaches to their community’s issues and demonstrated a unique capability for leading adaptation projects. Mcleod wrote, “This research addresses key research gaps including the lack of empirical data on the gender impacts of climate change, the importance of traditional knowledge in climate change adaptation, and the lack of adaptation research that incorporates perspectives of local women.”


The study, which has been published in Marine Policy, aims to confront the biases that exist in climate research and policymaking and to simultaneously strengthen the roles of Pacific Island women. Mcleod added, “The input from Pacific Island women provides guidance for enhancing women’s engagement and leadership in adaptation planning, and highlights the importance of securing their access to resources, such as land, climate financing, and technologies, essential for gender equality, women’s empowerment and resilience to climate change.”

Find the study here:

Raising the voices of Pacific Island women to inform climate adaptation policies

Pictured: Women leaders of market vendor associations from Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu attending the 13th Triennial Conference of Pacific Women. (Photo credit: UN Women/Terri O’Quinn)

Suzanna DeCosta

Digital Journalist Intern

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