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Kitiaga mo fakamahani e hikihikiaga matagi he tau fifine Niue: tau pūhala he tau hiapo Niue women’s perspectives and experiences of climate change: a hiapo approach

Indigenous communities in the Pacific are on the front-line of some of the most severe climate change impacts. Pacific leaders have consistently stated the urgent need for climate action (Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, 2019) and fought for larger emitting nations to be more accountable for their inaction. While Pacific leaders fight to be heard, our people are also fighting to reclaim and draw attention to Indigenous knowledge, language and cultural practice as key areas for strategies of sustainability and resilience. To understand the complexities of climate change in the Pacific, people of Oceania must have control in framing and voicing their diverse narratives. As a daughter of Niue, I have a vested interest in the conservation of a dynamic and diverse Niue environment and culture, and the stories of Niue people, by Niue people. In the face of global climate change, drawing attention to the specific experiences and lived realities of Niue people contributes to local, regional and global Indigenous narratives that come from a place of strength and self-determination and challenge dominant Euro-centric coverage of climate change. This thesis is about starting conversations that provide a greater platform to recognise and amplify the voices of Niue people. Specifically, this research focuses on Niue women’s experiences of and perspectives on climate change. Niue women are important holders of Niue knowledge and culture. Stories of Niue’s female ancestors are full of strength, resourcefulness, ferocity, and capability; unapologetic women who protect, nurture, provide and lead. Yet, very rarely do these stories make their way into primary school education, let alone any academic spheres. The perspectives and experiences of Niue women are important because in knowing them, it is possible to learn from their insight and culturally specific knowledge that has value and benefit in grappling with complex changes. From the intersection of Management Communication and Pacific studies this research draws on specific values around voice; communication that centres and values cultural identity. While interdisciplinary work is common in both fields, very rarely have these two disciplines come into contact. I used my background in Management Communication to critically engage in conversations about the possibilities of meaningful engagement with Niue stories and perspectives to better craft relevant communication that has both strategic and social relevance. This thesis adds to critical thinking in the spaces of Pacific Studies and Management Communication, raising questions of how these two fields might shape and be shaped by each other. To have a conversation about climate change in Niue, clear and considered attention needs to be given to the specificity and uniqueness of Niue women’s voices and lived experiences. This calls for a Pacific research methodology and methods that centre Niue culture and the diversity of perspectives of Niue women. I developed hiapo methodology as a Niue-specific way to approach this research and create a space where Niue women’s voices are privileged throughout the research process. Drawing on existing Pacific research methodologies, I explore the metaphor of the hiapo as a qualitative methodology that has particular relevance in culturally respectful research of Niue women’s narratives. Hiapo is known to be the domain of women, an embodiment of process, practice, ancestry, herstories, and relationships in and of Niue culture. Metaphors from hiapo allowed me to explore the complexity of climate change through the narratives of Niue women in ways that respect the cultural and gendered relationships that entwine in Niue lived experience. Hiapo methodology necessitates greater dimensionality in foregrounding and privileging Niue knowledge and culture through visual, written, and oral narratives and archives. Centring Niue women’s voices highlights intricate culturally-laden meanings and actions in response to the realities of vastly changing environments. Twelve Niue women, all of whom were based in Niue, collaborated with me on this study. Their narratives form precious tāoga for this study and – importantly for Niue people – for generations to come. These women’s voices are thematically analysed which brings into focus a multi-dimensional conceptualisation of climate change that reflects across their life stories and experiences. Climate change perspectives and experiences for these women are not just related to the physical impacts of the environment but much more diverse ancestral and cultural connections to the land, the sea, and our people. Climate change in this context involves paying attention to family, stories of genealogy and generational knowledge. There is a richness to the insights of thinking about climate change in the stories of Niue grandmothers, mothers and daughters that teach Niue values of strength, resilience and resourcefulness. Niue women’s voices offer different perspectives on how climate change impacts are considered and dealt with in every-day experiences. Paying attention to personal and specific stories that seem beyond the realm of climate change in fact offer sites to challenge dominant perspectives and consider the capabilities embedded in Niue culture and practice that comes from generations of experience and observation. How a vanilla farmer pollinates her flowers, how a mother teaches her children how to live without electricity, how a young mother navigates the convenience of imported foods, are just some of the factors that contribute to lived experiences that are exacerbated by climate change impacts. Yet these narratives also provide insight into the opportunities of climate change, the ability to become more aware of key issues that these women prioritise in order to provide for their families, make a living and how cultural and ancestral practices are vitally embedded in these actions. These women’s narratives provide insights into climate change and Niue cultural knowledge that has relevance both in Niue and beyond our rugged coastlines to Pacific and Indigenous communities who are also on the front-line of climate change.
Type of thesis
Pasisi, J. L. (2020). Kitiaga mo fakamahani e hikihikiaga matagi he tau fifine Niue: tau pūhala he tau hiapo Niue women’s perspectives and experiences of climate change: a hiapo approach (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13380
The University of Waikato
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