Naomi Semi attends UNESCO program on gender equitable water access

Monday, May 8, 2023
< Back to News & Stories

Papua New Guinean WLI Women’s Developmental Leadership Program alumna Naomi Semi is better equipped to address inequities in water access experienced by women after attending the UNESCO Program on Water and Climate Change: Women’s Coping Strategies in Pacific Small Island States.

Joining 20 other participants from 13 Pacific Islands, Naomi travelled to Nadi in Fiji to increase knowledge on and address “the interlinkages between water, gender and the Sustainable Development Goals, and the great need there is for sex-disaggregated data".

Naomi was nominated to represent Water PNG at the program, where she holds the role of Team Leader, Environment and Quality Control, Port Moresby Operations.

A Flinders University Master of Environmental Health alumna, Naomi is committed to the protection of PNG’s environmental and public health and has expertise in quality assurance of potable water and safe wastewater disposal.

[Image: Naomi Semi (left) with UNESCO program team members in Nadi, Fiji]

Engaging women and people living with disability

While attending the UNESCO program, Naomi learned to use a toolkit on sex-disaggregated water data collection which she describes as “very important” in helping her to identify and address gaps within her field of work.

In Naomi’s opinion, there is a need for those in the sector to not only consider the provision of services, but to also understand the experiences of the diverse population being served and where they are located in order to meet need.

“There is a gap in sex-disaggregated data in PNG which is needed to make water and sanitation services more equitable in our nation,” Naomi explains, “This can be from safe access to water and sanitation facilities for women in rural areas and settlements to the consideration of the challenges and the needs for persons with disabilities…” 

Ensuring women are involved in decision-making is one way that the sector can ensure diverse needs are being met. 

“Women come with a different perspective on matters and their own experiences can be invaluable to ensure that there is a gendered approach to matters that may arise,” she explains.

As part of and following the training, attendees also went on to develop a series of case studies on water access in the Pacific that may be published by UNESCO. 

“I, along with three colleagues from other Pacific Island countries, am working on our [group’s] case study looking at whether our national policies and frameworks address the water gender issues and the basic human rights in each country,” Naomi adds.

Honing leadership skills to increase equitable water access

Since completing the Women’s Developmental Leadership Program and returning home to PNG, Naomi has continued to hone her leadership skills and build her capacity to influence positive development change in her field.

She has plans to develop sustainable wastewater treatment systems for small PNG towns and communities and advocate for stronger policies and legislation around health issues arising from exposure to unsanitary conditions.

“Being a transformational leader is something that I hope to be and the events and programs that WLI runs are helpful in providing an avenue to learn, whether through the sessions or on the WLI hub with the different groups that I am a part of,” Naomi adds.


Naomi Semi is an alumna of the WLI Women's Developmental Leadership Program. ‍