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Marshallese Mother’s Touching Poem Brought Tears to the Eyes of World Leaders

Community, Events 25 Sep 2014   »   by Honestine Pa'ala-Fraser

Kathy Jentil-Kijiner

World leaders came together on September 23rd for the United Nations Climate Summit 2014, the most significant meeting on climate change to happen in a few years. There were many prestigious speakers, including President Barack Obama, whose very bleak speech unfortunately fell very short with the audience. But among the leaders and important speakers was a poet named Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a 26-year old Marshall Islands native. She was one of 500 candidates chosen to speak at the summit.  In her native dress, Jetnil-Kijiner spoke eloquently and grabbed the attention of everyone in the room.

Her poem, titled “Dear Matafele Peinem” was a heartfelt letter to her daughter that discussed the vast-changing effects climate change has recently had on our world. Just moments within her poem, Jetnil-Kijiner was able to not only express the issue, but also bring tears to her audience. The mother and poet emphasized the effects and harsh realities that climate change has had on the Marshall Islands. These islands, along with many other islands in the South Pacific are vastly experiencing the biggest effects from this environmental issue. Following her poem, Jetnil-Kijiner was joined on stage with her husband and baby, and was given a well-deserved standing ovation.

Jetnil-Kijiner is not only a poet, but also the co-founder of a non-governmental organization called Jo-Jikum, based out of the Marshall Islands. The organization recently participated in the People’s Climate March, a massive event that occurred in Manhattan that drew in over 300,000 people. There is no doubt that Jetnil-Kijiner’s speech and poem brought more awareness, and will hopefully bring more people to become proactive about climate change.

You can watch Jetnil-Kijiner’s speech here:

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