Pawa meris of Pari rehabilitate their coastline to fight climate change

Nov 20, 2017

President of the Pari Women’s Development Association, Geua Sasala. ©Nick Turner/UNDP

Pari, November 2017, Geua Sasala is what Papua New Guineans would describe as a Pawa Meri; a Tok Pisin term defining a woman who is strong and powerful, and not afraid of ruffling a few feathers.

Ms. Sasala, the President of the Pari Women’s Development Association (PWDA), is a champion for gender equality, women’s empowerment and environmental sustainability in her coastal village of Pari, a short drive from the nation’s capital Port Moresby.

In early 2015, the PWDA realised that marine food resources such as fish were becoming scarce, and set about establishing the Pari Community Mangrove and Reef Rehabilitation and Sustainable Livelihood Alternatives for Women Project.

Thanks to $50,000 USD in funding from the United Nations Development Programme in Papua New Guinea via the GEF Small Grants Programme, the women of Pari are shaping a sustainable future for the community’s once degraded coastline. 

“The best thing about the project is that it is lead by women,” Ms. Sasala said.

What would traditionally be the role of a male within Pari society, it’s the women of the small community who are leading the way to ensure that their livelihoods are sustained following many years of overfishing, waste disposal and the various effects of rising sea levels and climate change.

“My husband jokes that I must be important because I’ve got two phones!

“Early on in the project we would leave in the morning and often come back with nothing to show for our day’s work. The men go out and fish and come back with something, but for us it was a struggle,” said Ms. Sasala.

However, things are starting to change for the better thanks to the fantastic results being achieved via the mangrove and reef rehabilitation project.

The 6m2 site has paved the way for a healthier ocean ecosystem, with mangroves and coral being re-planted by the PWDA.

The project is increasing the community’s awareness of the need to look after its mangrove and coral reef population, while also increasing their knowledge of the significance that mangroves and coral reefs play within the coastal ecosystem.

“The water is now much cleaner, we have around 30 women involved with the project, the mangroves continue to grow and we are starting to plant more coral,” Ms. Sasala said.

In the future, Ms Sasala hopes to see more fish returning to the waters of Pari, allowing women in business to sell their goods at local markets and in turn provide an income for their family.

For more information on the SGP go to: http://www.pg.undp.org/content/papua_new_guinea/en/home/operations/projects/environment_and_energy/undp-gef-small-grants.html

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