The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
LOCATION: Majuro, Marshall Islands
Jo-Jikum is a nonprofit youth organization located in the Marshall Islands. Their mission is to support the next generation of Marshallese youth in navigating and developing solutions to environmental issues impacting the islands. Their programs focus on leadership development, environmental awareness, arts, media, and project management.
Jo-Jikum collaborates with the traditional leadership of Laura Village, the Marshall Islands Environmental Protection Authority (RMI EPA), and the Majuro Atoll Local Government (MALGOV) to train and support the “Laura Lens Committee” and the youth of Laura in conducting participatory water quality monitoring, reporting, and management of rainwater harvesting systems and coastal aquifers.
Jo-Jikum has learned a lot from working with UUSC alongside its project partners, the national government partner RMI Environmental Protection Authority (RMI EPA) and community partner Majuro Atoll Local Government (MALGOV). As expressed by RMI EPA General Manager Moriana Phillip, “There is a very clear and present need to enhance environmental data collection services by a number of stakeholders, and also a desire to engage communities in a meaningful way. Nicky (a youth participant) is helping us prove that international researchers and national regulatory and enforcement agencies can get dependable data from a well-trained community member, so that they can focus on data management and analysis. With a trained community member doing the work, equipped with a 4G connection and smartphone-based applications which allow direct uploading of collected data into a centralized dashboard, it changes things. We are watching Nicky closely keeping in mind that we have regional networks that could see Nicky go further into a University and emerging as a water specialist.”
Over the course of the project, another national government partner joined in the learning experience, namely the National Nuclear Commission (NNC). They provide timely funding support which allowed Jo-Jikum to keep Nicky working for an additional 8 weeks, just long enough to finish up the project within their extended timeline. The NNC is interested in groundwater monitoring activities that build local capacity and agency, in contrast to how the U.S. nuclear legacy in the RMI has unfolded over the past 70+ years. In this way, the UUSC funds have allowed for a more justice-centered approach to environmental monitoring in the RMI.
UUSC’s partnership supports Indigenous-led research into the monitoring of ecosystems on the Marshall Islands, following the leadership of Laura youth in using data to make decisions around their collective future.
Image Credit: Jo-Jikum