This year speakers have been selected by a small team of dedicated volunteers after a rigorous short list process but we are interested in hearing from you if you would like to nominate someone to speak at next year’s event. Showcasing dynamic stories that have never been heard on a world stage from Pacific Islanders is critical to TEDxSuva so please nominate yourself or other speakers that you feel has a good story or idea to share. Please contact us via email here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai
‘The fisherwomen I have met show a deep stewardship and love of the ocean. I’d like to see more people feel this way and not see the ocean as just a blue space, especially those of us who live in the cities.’
Dr Sangeeta Mangubhai brings to the TEDxSuva stage a deep and abiding appreciation for the value women bring to Fiji’s fisheries industry and their wealth of knowledge so often undervalued.
Since completing her PhD in coral reef ecology in 2007 through Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia, she has worked on designing marine managed areas, shark sanctuaries, marine spatial planning, community fisheries, environmental policy, and climate change.
Her work on marine science and conservation having taken her to Australia, East Africa, Indonesia and the South Pacific, Sangeeta decided to return to Fiji in 2013.
‘I came back because I decided that it was time I stop investing in trying to fix everybody else’s coral reefs all over the world – I wanted to work back home and see if I could make a difference here,’ she says.
Now, as Director of the World Conservation Society’s Fiji Country Program, Sangeeta’s work with fisherwomen and their communities has yielded insights into the traditional management systems that impact subsistence and commercial fisheries, and the rich body of knowledge these women have about the ocean.
Sangeeta received the international World Reef Award last year in recognition of her global contribution to the science and conservation of coral reefs. She is currently the Executive Board Co-Chair for the Women in Fisheries Network – Fiji.
‘For Pacific people, the ocean is more than just about economic resources. It is our home, our life, our mana, mauri, it links us to our past and holds our future.’
Maureen Penjueli was born on the island of Rotuma but spent most of her schooling life in Lautoka, Fiji. She undertook the Foundation in Science Programme at the University of the South Pacific and gained a Degree in Australian Environmental Science at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Married with seven children and two dogs, she considers herself a student of life.
Maureen will share her story on the TEDx Suva stage of her journey as a dedicated activist, having pursued environmental, social and economic justice issues for over 20 years throughout the region.
‘I am not arguing against development but it should be development that we understand and that we have asked for,’ she says.
She is currently Coordinator for the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), a leading regional NGO working on trade and economic justice issues. With PANG, she has actively challenged Free Trade Agreements (PACER-Plus, EPA, WTO) that Pacific Island Countries are currently negotiating.
‘We must recognise that if we continue to let outside interests set the agenda for our home then inevitably we will find ourselves in a place we do not recognise nor understand,’ Maureen says. ‘If we do that, not only will we have let our ancestors down but more importantly we will have failed our children and the planet.’
PANG’s work involves research, lobbying and advocacy with and on behalf of civil society groups, faith-based organisations, communities and customary landowners.
‘The Pacific Ocean is the largest named ocean in the world. We need to change the narrative. We are not small. Let’s turn this dynamic around.’
Langi Toribau is an independent environmental consultant with a focus on oceans conservation and management based in Suva, Fiji.
Previously, he was Program Director for Greenpeace Africa looking after program operation across the African continent, working out of Johannesburg. He also led Greenpeace’s Global Tuna Political Project.
For several years, he coordinated Greenpeace’s Oceans and Fisheries campaign in the Pacific, which included a number of climate and political-related initiatives in the region as well as across the global Greenpeace movement.
His idea at this year’s TEDx Suva is distilled from his 14 years of experience, overseeing national, regional and international projects, leading expeditions on numerous ship tours targeting legal and illegal overfishing, and documenting threats to the Pacific Ocean on Greenpeace ships including the Rainbow Warrior.
‘The Pacific Ocean is one of our biggest assets. However, our asset is quickly deteriorating and depreciating in its value,’ says Langi. ‘Let’s turn the tide. Let’s not be belittled or dependent. Because the Pacific is also well positioned to deliver the world from many of its sustainability challenges.’
‘The ocean is really important to everyone. I realised this when I made a personal connection with the sea at my grandmother’s village.’
From Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, Genesis Selina, the youngest speaker at TEDxSuva, is an aspiring film director of Fijian heritage who has been making short films on her computer since she was in the seventh grade.
‘I’m a student right now, having to catch up on schoolwork but I’m also currently working on my next film that’s about to come out,’ says the tenth grader.
Last year her first major body of work, the short film Boy Strikes Back, was selected for the Pasifika Film Festival, making her the youngest screenwriter and director at the film festival and the only Fijian entrant. Boy Strikes Back screened in Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and Wellington.
‘Watching movies and thinking about these people who have created these ideas and made them come to life in films, that’s always something I’ve wanted to do because I have so many ideas and I want to see them come to life. And filmmaking helps that happen,’ Genesis says.
At TEDxSuva Genesis will share her journey of reconnecting with her homeland through the ocean and realising how it is, in a way, also her home.
Dr Joeli Veitayaki
Dr Joeli Veitayaki is a lecturer at the University of the South Pacific’s School of Marine Studies.
‘We as researchers at university, as faculty members, owe it to society to make sure that our research is useful in influencing the lives of the people that we serve. Basically that’s what drives me,’ he says.
With over 26 years as an academic, reflecting on, teaching and researching community development, he has also attended his fair share of global conferences on the sustainable development of our oceans.
His experiences have instilled in him a belief that global aspirations must be followed up with local action.
‘People in rural areas I believe are in a much more challenging position because they have to organise themselves and live with issues, a lot of which are very new to them, he says.
‘So it is important that we engage them in whatever way we can through training, through implementation of project activities, and all those kinds of things.’
According to Joeli, the world already has enough global plans to address environmental challenges. What compels him is the need to demonstrate those plans locally. And the good news is that we have the resources at our disposal.
There are people doing things, there are a lot of technological advancements in the areas of living with the environment,’ he says, referring to renewable energy, technology and growing knowledge of innovative ways to live and work sustainably.
Joeli’s journey from the rural village where he first went to school to being a university lecturer in Fiji’s capital city has enabled him to build bridges between the traditional and modern, the rural and urban and the local and international realms.
He brings those ideas to TEDxSuva, some of which he has already begun to implement in his village on the island of Gau.
‘What you know impacts what you believe about yourself. When our knowledge is corrupted, we are corrupted.’
Director of the National Archives of Fiji, and a Pacific islander of Tuvaluan (Nukufetau & Vaitupu) and Fijian (Rewa & Cakaudrove) descent, Opeta was bitten by the history bug at a young age.
This year he brings to TEDx Suva his long-held passion for the nurturing of our knowledge and history, and the challenge that knowing our past is important for an informed present and a resilient future.
‘Society finds new ways to use and re-use information – information and its uses continue to change over time,’ Opeta says. ‘How we treat our knowledge is important.’
He received most of his education in Fiji where he read History, Politics, and Journalism at the University of the South Pacific, before spending two eye-opening years at Monash University in Melbourne where he was the joint recipient of the 2011 Australian Society of Archivists Margaret Jennings Award.
After 8 years in the private sector and a brief stint at Fiji’s Ministry of Information, he joined the National Archives of Fiji where he has spent the last 14 years, seeing himself as part of a passionate team working hard to improve access to heritage.
‘Record keeping is at the coalface of maintaining order,’ he says. ‘It is the key to unlocking the potential of our institutions because the quality of our knowledge has an impact on how our government does business.’
Opeta is currently President of the Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council on Archives, and is an Executive Board member of the International Council on Archives.
‘My father died sailing a drua from Lau to Suva when I was three years old. I want to do a return leg just to show that this practice of sailing with our traditional canoes is very much alive.’
The sea changed Tikoidelaimakotu Fuluna’s life at the tender age of three when it claimed his father’s life while sailing a drua (a traditional Fijian canoe) to Suva.
‘I was raised up in the village and everything was from the ocean. The food was from the ocean, the village is beside the ocean and most of my life was about the ocean,’ says Jim, as he is known.
Having grown up in Korova in Suva, a community with a heritage of canoe building and sailing from the island of Ogea in Lau, Jim studied mechanical engineering and is now a service coordinator working with heavy machinery.
Throughout his life’s journey, he has not forgotten his roots. His message at TEDxSuva is a call to value the body of water that sustains our planet and our ancient traditions for living sustainably with it.
‘The main idea that I want to bring out to the people is the importance of the ocean or the importance of nature to our lives. Everything that falls on this earth leads to the ocean,’ Jim says. ‘Since it’s a source of food and life, as I can see, it’s just really disturbing to me that people don’t value the ocean.’
Jim has a mission to complete his father’s – one that he hopes will carry his message that a resilient future can be built with lessons from the past. While the ocean is important to where he is and where he comes from, it is also the horizon to which he looks for the future.
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