Climate Wise: Women's Global Response to Climate Change

NPP Pressroom

Smith College Grecourt Gate
Kristen Cole, Media Relations Director

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Next month, at the beginning of their 30-city, 18-country tour of the Americas, four women community activists will speak at Smith College about guaranteeing a safe, just and sustainable future for everyone. The discussion, "The Climate Wise Women: A Conversation on Global Women's Response to Climate Change," will be held at 7 p.m. Monday, April 12, in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. The program is free and open to the public. The tour is based on a program originally presented by the tcktcktck campaign in New York City in September 2009, and again during the United Nations (U.N.) climate change conference in Copenhagen. The Climate Wise Women are Sharon Hanshaw, a beautician-turned-community-leader from Biloxi, Miss.; Ulamila Kurai Wragg, a climate journalist from Raratonga, Cook Islands; Constance Okollet, a rural farmer who runs a women's network connecting 40 villages in Uganda; and Ursula Rakova of the tiny Carteret Islands who is moving her entire population to Papua New Guinea to escape rising sea water levels. In public conversation with high-profile academics, scientists, artists, religious leaders, urban planners, rural agriculture experts, government officials and local activists, the four women offer a perspective as to what climate change is doing to women, children, families and communities around the world. Joining the Smith College event as guest panelists are Giovanna Di Chiro, research associate at the Five College Women's Studies Research Center, and Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project. Erin Ailworth, who writes about the business of the environment for the Boston Globe, will moderate the discussion. The Climate Wise Women Americas tour will cover ten U.S. cities, Toronto, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro in April. The project continues to Asia and the Pacific in fall 2010 and to Europe in spring 2011. Supporting the Climate Wise Women project are former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and her foundation Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and the Smith College Center for the Environment, Ecological Design and Sustainability (CEEDS) whose team of student volunteers have implemented the Americas tour in conjunction with the Climate Wise Women. "Climate change has the potential to affect communities around the world through significant environmental changes such as sea-level rise, intensified drought and increased flooding, and these impacts can exacerbate persistent gender inequities," comments Andrew Guswa, associate professor of engineering at Smith. "The stories of the women in this project can be a powerful call to action." "We are delighted to be able to bring this project to Smith College with our strong tradition of women's leadership," Guswa added. Sharon Hanshaw Hanshaw is the executive director of Coastal Women for Change, launched in January 2006. The group brings together community members in Biloxi, Miss., to discuss and participate in long range planning and reconstruction of their community following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. For more than 20 years, Hanshaw ran a hairdressing salon and worked as a community advocate. Hurricane Katrina propelled her to a position of leadership in Biloxi. The challenges she and her community face are likely to be replicated around the world as extreme weather becomes more common as a result of climate change. Hanshaw's story. Ulamila Kurai Wragg Wragg is a veteran journalist who has worked for the past 20 years in Fiji and the Cook Islands, witnessing the diverse impacts of climate change in both island countries. She is the interim coordinator for the not-for-profit Pacific WAVE Media Network and heads its Climate Change team. WAVE (Women Advancing a Vision of Empowerment) is a network of Pacific women working in media focused on empowering Pacific women as leaders in and through media. Wragg lives with her husband and four children on Vaimaanga beach in Rarotonga. Increasing sea surges, eroding shorelines, frequent cyclones and dried riverbeds are just some of the many reasons that Ulamila's paradise home is under threat. Wragg's story. Constance Okollet In 2007, heavy rains destroyed the homes and food supply of Okollet's village, displacing all of its residents. Starvation followed. Once the situation stabilized, the community was dealt a second blow: an unprecedented drought that dried up crops and wells, reigniting the cycle of hunger and thirst. Okollet is a peasant farmer from Tororo district in Eastern Uganda and a mother of seven. She is also a community activist and chairperson of the Osukura United Women network which includes 40 regional groups in Uganda's Osukura Subcounty. Ursula Rakova Rakova became a pioneer in the environmental movement after studying social administration at Papua New Guinea University. At the request of a group of Carteret Island chiefs, Rakova returned home to help form Tulele Peisa, an organization whose mission is to voluntarily relocate 1,700 Carterets Islanders, whose islands and food supply are rapidly eroding. They now must move to three locations on mainland Bougainville, Papua New Guinea over the next 10 years. She was awarded the Pride of Papua New Guinea award in 2008 for her outstanding contribution to the environment. She has worked for the Individual and Community Rights Advocacy Forum, Environment Law Centre and Oxfam. Rakova's story. Smith College educates women of promise for lives of distinction. One of the largest women's colleges in the United States, Smith enrolls 2,800 students from nearly every state and 62 other countries. The event is sponsored by the Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability; the Global Studies Center; the Center for Community Collaboration; and the Center for Work and Life.