I'd like to share a proud moment. I have worked to protect our oceans for almost twenty years now - and my passion for the ocean extends far beyond that. In all these years, I have addressed the UN on several occasions on different issues affecting the ocean, from deep-sea bottom trawling to illegal fishing and the need to protect the High Seas. I have done so on behalf of well-established and well-funded NGOs.
In 2017 I set up Women4Oceans as a reaction to what I was witnessing (and experiencing) in the ocean space. W4O has been growing organically since then with some 5000 women joining the network, including hundreds of ocean professionals in our directory. I am only able to dedicate my free time to it. I have no comms, PR or fundraising support. It has been, and continues to be a long road to gain recognition for all the work that goes into it. However, as I returned from the UN Ocean Conference last week, feeling exhilarated and somewhat down at the same time, I had to pause and remind myself of my achievements.
Despite a complete lack of substantial funding, and only incidental volunteer support, I have elevated recognition for women in the ocean space by speaking on behalf of my organisation at numerous events from the World Ocean Summit, to a UN Symposium on Fish Crimes, and from the Blue Vision Summit to the Extreme Hangout at Cop26 in Glasgow. The invitations are too many to write here. I speak to reporters and institutions about the importance of diversifying the voices that go into shaping our relationship with the ocean, about the importance of lifting each other up. I speak about the various threats facing the ocean, and how critical it is to engage everyone. I speak about my campaigning efforts to win crucial gains in ocean conservation.
I felt exhilarated last week because of the energy of the conference and the momentum that is building to stop deep-sea mining from happening. At the same time I felt somewhat down. Despite delivering a powerful statement to the UN on the need to give back hope to the people by stopping a disaster from happening (deep-sea mining), I did not have a team to celebrate with, and even for a moment felt invisible to the established NGOs fighting the same fight. But as I pause to think about how far I have come with Women4Oceans, I am proud to note that Women4Oceans was one of only four NGOs allowed to speak in the Interactive Dialogue on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. For a small NGO, I think we are making big waves! I can only imagine what is possible with funding.
The point I am making to myself and to anyone reading this is: Don't give up. Sometimes all you need is your own validation to keep going!
- Farah Obaidullah
Read full statement to the UN here.
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