Pacific island women pursuing careers in Meteorology

19 July, 2016, Rarotonga, Cook Islands -  Meteorology in the Pacific islands is largely a male dominant field, yet it may be a sign of changing times when six of the 14 Pacific Met Officers attending a regional met training are Pacific island women.

Now underway in the Cook Islands is a one week training for Pacific met officers on how to use a computer based tool to develop seasonal forecasts.  This is led by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Climate Center (APCC) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and is close to achieving gender balance in more ways than one.

Both delegations from APCC and SPREP that are facilitating the training consist of 50% male and female members, with technical expertise in relevant areas.

"This is a highlight for us as we would like to see more Pacific island women working as technicians in the Met Services across the region, we actively promote this and are pleased to see the strong representation of Pacific island women at this workshop," said Christina Leala-Gale, the Finnish-Pacific (FINPAC) Project Manager of SPREP.

ROKPI GENDER1Mr. Lloyd Tahani, Deputy Director of the Solomon Islands Met Service with Ms. Kamaitia Rubetaake of the Kiribati Met Service seeking support from a technical team member of the APCC. Photo: SPREP

FINPAC, a partnership between the Government of Finland and SPREP aims at reducing the vulnerability of the livelihoods of Pacific islanders to the impacts of climate change through strengthening the Meteorological Services.

"I think there is a misconception that Meteorology, a highly scientific field, is more of interest to males. Seeing our Pacific island women participating in such a technical workshop is proof that it is not, if any young women out there are interested in this field, please let us know and we can link you with the relevant national Met Service to help guide you through a career in this field."

The regional training is teaching Pacific met officers how to use CLIK-Pacific, a new Seasonal Climate Prediction System which gives you the option of combining climate models from 10 different global meteorology centres to develop a prediction system over any three month period.

The Met Services of Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Tonga and Vanuatu are represented by Pacific island women.

"Originally I was studying to work in the environment field, however after a brief work contract with the VMGD I enjoyed working in climatology, for me it's the whole idea of being able to monitor what is happening in the atmosphere and the ocean and how their interact at a Global or Regional level over time determines the kind of climate that we receive," said Ms. Melinda Natapei, Climatologist and the acting Principal Scientific Officer of the Vanuatu Meteorological Service and Geo-hazards Department (VMGD).   

"I think there can be cultural challenges as a young Pacific island female in meteorology, I find that sometimes audiences would prefer to receive information from a male instead, but while this is a challenge, it does not define who I am or degrade the quality of work that I produce."

In the Solomon Islands, the Meteorological Service has two female staff who work in climate services as well as a female meteorologist forecaster.

"We don't think that science or this field is only for males, that's a more traditional way of thinking. In this sector of the work we look for capability, regardless of whether you are male or female," said Mr. Lloyd Tahani, the Deputy Director of the SIMS.

While some Met Services across the Pacific islands have lower numbers of women than men in the technical fields, there are still women holding key positions within these services.

ROKPI GENDER2R - L: Ms. Melinda Natapei of the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department with Ms. Maylene Joshua of the Palau National Weather Service Office seeking support from a technical member of the APCC.
Photo: SPREP

The Kiribati Meteorological Service currently has six female staff of the 24 that work there, Ms. Kamaitia Rubetaake, the Climate Officer has worked with KMS for the past four years, initially wanting to learn more about applying marine science into meteorology, she is in the Cook Islands attending the Pacific Met Training on the CLIK-Pacific.

'I would like to see more Pacific island women working in this area across the region, I think if you have an interest in meteorology, you should go for it!"

Her sentiments are echoed by Ms. Natapei of Vanuatu - "I'd encourage people not to stereotype technical and scientific work to being better performed by a certain gender, if you are passionate about something, pursue it!"

Met officers from American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna are attending the one week workshop which is hosted in Rarotonga, Cook Islands from 18 – 23 July, 2016.

It is supported by both the ROK-PI CLIPS Project, a partnership between the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Climate Center and the Government of the Republic of Korea with SPREP and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

The Finnish Pacific Project (FINPAC) is also supporting the one week event, this aims at reducing the vulnerability of the livelihoods of Pacific islanders to the impacts of climate change through strengthening the Meteorological Services. It is a partnership between SPREP and the Government of Finland.
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