Kahealani Hekau is from beautiful state of Niue, the Rock Island of Polynesia and the world’s largest coral island.
Crowned Miss South Pacific in 2004, Kahealani entered the pageant because of her love for performing arts as a medium to bring communities together.
Now, she is attending the United Nations climate talks (COP18) in Doha as a member of the Pacific Gender Coalition to raise the participation of community based organisations in policy making; and to encourage policy decisions to be more gender responsive. Kahealani told The Verb about all things gender and climate change.
Kahealani’s mission at the climate talks is bring gender issues to the center stage.
She explains: “From a gender perspective when things happen we look to each other for help. That’s where gender comes into play – you look at what roles men and women have fulfill when trying to cope and adapt and manage the impacts of climate change.
“Where women are disadvantaged when extreme weather events occur; it even exacerbates their condition. Having a gender perspective is really trying to bridge that gap.”
Kahealani is no stranger to the real impacts of climate change.
Her home Niue is a high coral raised island that is affected by severe tidal waves and regular cyclones.
This year they experienced a long dry spell that dried out the island’s crops and affected their fishing supply. At COP18 Kahealani wants to, in her words, “bridge the gap” between the people living their day to day lives and experiencing climate change, and those making decisions.
“There’s a gap, you know, between transmitting the information down to the people on the ground and having the right people’s voices come up to the higher levels. My concern is if the gap becomes bigger and wider… I don’t see the effectiveness of these talks if it is removed from the ground level.”
After she won Miss South Pacific, she explains; “For a while, I had to get used to being a public figure, and had to live up to the expectation that you become a role model for other young women and youth. I begin to care about the bigger picture. I became interested in activities that contribute to community development and I became interested in helping others make good choices”.
This year the United Nations celebrated their first Gender Day at COP18. Kahealani played a vocal role in ensuring gender was front and center stage.