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A non-profit organization (NGO) called Sea Women of Melanesia train Indigenous women to safeguard coral reefs that are under threat from climate change. Today the organization has more than 40 members and they protect 43 marine areas.
“The Sea Women of Melanesia is a team of women from Melanesia, who are passionate about marine conservation and who are willing to go back to their community to set up marine reserves, ” says team leader Naomi Longa.
According to Euronews. green, the organization has worked with communities in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea on marine conservation for more than five years. The key to the project is that the team combines Indigenous knowledge with marine conservation science.
During the NGO’s training, the local women learn vital skills such as underwater photography and how to snorkel while taking classes in marine science. Once they have learned all the necessary skills, the women help monitor the health of coral reefs in protected marine areas. One thing they monitor is, for example, the effects of coral bleaching on underwater life.
“Most of the women have no background in science, they have their local way of dealing with conservation. They take ownership of the sea. So we just go in, and we learn from them, and also impart the scientific knowledge to them,” says Evangelista Apelis, director of Sea Women of Melanesia.
Sea Women of Melanesia doesn’t exclude men from the program if they wish to join. However, the organization believes that involving local women can have much more significant benefits for conservation work.
“When you train a woman, you train a society, ” says Apelis. “We believe, and we’ve actually seen results showing that women tend to be more accountable, they tend to produce results. Also, they tend to bring their kids.”
“So that’s the kind of approach that we take in order to involve the community as a whole. And it also gives women a platform to exercise their leadership roles.”