Pacific women writers have their say on climate change

29 March 2018

Source: Radio NZ International by Sara Vui-Talitu

Pacific women and their challenges in coping with climate change have been highlighted in a new Commonwealth anthology.

A mix of new and established authors from the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, the Indian and Pacific Oceans contributed to the anthology. Little Island co-owner, Tony Murrow, said it had been a collaborative effort with overseas publishers but the book highlights work from both well-known authors as well as new writers.

"It's been brought together by the Commonwealth Foundation and based in London and they ran a programme last year where they reached out to African communities and produced a collection of short stories, poems and so what we have here is a collection from our island communities in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Malta, the Indian ocean and the Pacific ocean, so the largest geographic area of the world."

Little Island press publisher Evotia Tamua said the seed for this anthology has just grown. "They put out a call out in 2016 for submissions for poems and short stories and they chose a select few. They had very very hard criteria....and they loved a few of the stories but just couldn't use everything and so they used one story from every island and what we have got are those final stories. " Ms Tamua said it's no surprise the voices from the Pacific are predominantly female. "It is inspiring and it's about time. It is their time. It is our time and things don't happen because they just happen. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes and a lot of our voices are being heard now. "

One of those voices, is Samoan writer, Sia Figiel, whose fiction includes 'Where we Once Belonged' and 'The Girl in the Moon Circle'. She said any reader will be easily able to identify and connect with the themes here, as no matter where, at the heart of any island is its people, and the ocean. "Whether they are about sexuality, desire, dispossession, intellectual property, takeover, but at the core of it, is a very island perspective."

Sia Figiel said women are also at the heart of any family, who do their best to give their children a better future even in the face of climate change and other challenges. "Because they are the most vulnerable, women have also been hurt. Women are also living in poverty. They aren't all at university. They don't all have degrees. A vast number are uneducated."

Poet Mere Taito is a Rotuman islander who moved to New Zealand in 2007 and is now based in Hamilton. She said there is something for everyone. "But also land issues, issues of identity they are all here in this book and anyone who has lived on any island will be able to pick it up and find something in there that is relevant to them and that is the beauty of the book. " Ms Taito's work has been published widely in literary journals in Fiji and New Zealand.