15 Mar 2024


International Women’s Day is 8 March and this year’s theme is Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress. This theme underscores the crucial role of inclusion in achieving gender equality. It calls for action to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and create environments where all women are valued and respected.

To celebrate International Women’s Day we asked Cedella Nongebatu, WWF-Pacific’s Gender Equity, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) Coordinator what it means to Invest in Women.

This year’s International Women's Day theme is Invest in Women. What does this mean to you?

International Women’s Day means making sure no woman is forgotten. It is about appreciating and celebrating the diversity of women and to commit to always empowering them in the ways they need and want to be empowered.

Tell us about WWF-Pacific's work in the Gender Equity, Disability and Social Inclusion space and why it’s so important?

WWF-Pacific's work in this space focuses on mainstreaming GEDSI across all projects with the vision that it will in time become a key integrated component of all program designs. It is important as it continuously emphasises that the success of our projects and, conservation as a whole, depends on the full inclusion of everyone in our communities.

Can you tell us about the women you work with?

They are phenomenal at the work they do - regardless of how different their jobs and workspaces are. Whether it be in the office or out in the field or in communities, their work ethic continues to highlight their commitment to conservation in the Solomon Islands.

Changing norms to enhance inclusion takes time, what's your/WWF-Pacific's approach to manage this?

It’s important to be patient but mindful in how we engage with communities. There is a fine line between influencing positive change and imposing it. The 'how' of our engagement with communities across a period of time will determine the success of inclusion becoming a norm.

What changes have you seen regarding greater, more meaningful inclusion in the areas you are working?

In particular, there have been more realisations of the role and agency of people with disability and a challenge of the stigma around disability in communities.

What's been your experience working in conservation as a woman?

My work and experience so far in the collaborative space of gender and conservation has been a pleasant surprise. The current narrative of work in the gender space preaches men will always be in opposition to anything gender-related and I should be ready for that. Thus far, I have only experienced the complete opposite with men I have worked with – collaboration and healthy conversation and discussions on gender roles. All enquiries were not of hostility but of genuine interest. It is something I am very proud of.

What’s your vision for the future for women in conservation?

My vision for the future is for women to triumph from the fruits of their labour and that their knowledge has been passed onto a keen, environmentally, socially-inclusive generation. I would love to see women in conservation thrive in knowing that their work is what makes this planet home, that their toil to save species and educate is what will keep this planet a stable house to live in.

Cedella helps support WWF's Gender Equity, Disability and Social Inclusion (GEDSI) program developed with WWF-Pacific and local community partners in Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea. This program is delivered in partnership with the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) and our corporate partner John West.