Kya Raina Lal: How and Why I Wore a Sulu* to COP21

The how, of how I wore a Sulu* to COP21 is easy, some interesting folding and tucking, 2 safety pins and half a container of fashion tape. I had to make it fashionable and professional after all.

The why of why I wore a Sulu is a litter longer. Yesterday was Pacific Day in the Indigenous People’s Pavilion in the Green Zone at COP21. The day was long, loud, colourful and running late, as per island time. Here is a play by play:

11:00am – Ava* Ceremony

The day kicked off with a traditional Tokeluan Ava* Ceremony at the Indigenous Pavilion, with Pacific Climate Warrior Mikaela Maiava conducting affairs. In traditional Tokeluan style women give Ava* to the guests. As a result I was promptly roped in to assist along with a number of women from the Pacific Indigenous Network.

Members of the Pasifika Indigenous Delegation to COP21 open Pacific Day with an Ava ceremony.

11:15am – “We the Pacific” hosted by PICAN

The Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) have hosted a number of events here in Paris  on Pacific Climate Issues. The “We the Pacific”event involved a range of speakers on a range of topics.

First up, was newly appointed PICAN co-ordinator Krishneil Narayan, introduced PICAN and their work. Along with a presentation of videos from around the Pacific, about how Pacific Climate action and mobilisation is taking place.

Krishneil Narayan PICAN coordinator

He was followed by Mahendra Kumar, who spoke to the Suva Declaration, it’s impact and outcomes.

Mahendra Kumar of the Fiji Delegation speaking to the Suva Declaration

We then heard from Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner who preformed her piece about 1.5 degrees.

Marshallese Poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Finally Brianna Freuan the South Pacific Environmental Programme Youth Ambassador spoke on why she got involved in Climate change activism.

12:30pm – “It’s About Our Very Survival” panel with Prime Minister Enele Sopoanga of Tuvalu and President Anote Tong of Kiribati 

This panel was hosted by the Tuvalu Climate Action Network (TUCAN) though short, gave both Prime Minister Sopoanga and President Tong the chance to reiterate the points they had been making since their leaders speeches on day one.

Pacific Leaders with event organisers.

4:30pm – Pasifika Indigenous Network Launch

The Pacific Indigenous Network is a group of Pacific Climate Activist that have come together to fight collectively for their countries. The event was opened with a traditional Maori karanga, welcoming people into the venue. Followed by the networks Focal point Te Tui Shortland addressing those in attendance. Once more Prime Minister Sopoanga and President Anote Tong spoke, along with the Vanuatu Climate Change Minister Thomas Laken,  Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brum and New Zealand’s Green Party Co-leader James Shaw.

President Anote Tong of Kiribati 

Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brum

Frontline activists were also present and sharing their stories about how Climate change is impacting their part of the Pacific – with activists from Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Tokelau, Vanuatu, Cook Islands and Tonga speaking to those gathered.

The night ended with a performance from New Zealand Maori group Mau te aroha as well as more Ava*.

Mau te aroha close off the Pasifika Indigenous Launch

Mau te aroha close off the Pasifika Indigenous Launch

A final round of Ava* at the Pasifika Indigenous Launch

*Sulu is the Fijian word for Sarong. It is known as a Lavalava in Samoan or a Pareo in Tahitian or the Cook Islands. Ava is also known as Kava or Yaqona in the Pacific.

Posted on December 6, 2015 and filed under UN Climate Talks 2015.