A mother’s poem for her baby: Hope for a better environment now

2 min readDec 4, 2020


Last time we talked about the Marshall Islands, one of the lowest lying countries in the world. Some studies even suggested the island country would disappear by 2030 due to the rising sea level. In recent years, the Marshall inlands has been building sea banks to alleviate the impact of flooding. When National Geographic interviewed the country’s then President Hilda Heine in 2018, she said the country would think about both mitigation and adaptation, for example, by building higher ground.

For those who have been following the Marshall Islands, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner should be a familiar name. Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner is a Marshallese climate change activist, poet, performer and educator. As an activist, she co-founded Jo-Jikum, a Marshall Islands based nonprofit dedicated to Marshallese youth and environmentalism. She also frequently appears in different climate change talks and summits. In 2014, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner performed her poem Dear Matafele Peinem at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit.

And there are thousands out on the street

marching hand in hand chanting for change now

And they’re marching for you, baby

They’re marching for us

because we deserve to do more than just survive

we deserve to thrive

Dear Matafele Peinem, you are eyes heavy with drowsy weight

so just close those eyes and sleep in peace

because we won’t let you down

you’ll see.

These are the final lines of Dear Matafele Peinem which Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner wrote for her daughter. It carries a mother’s wish for a peaceful environment for her baby.

As a poet, Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner uses her poems to represent the issues threatening the Marshallese community. Her poems are full of rich storytelling and down-to-earth perspectives. Recently, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner co-created a poem Rise: From One Island to Another with Greenland-based poet Aka Niviâna. The new poem links the Marshall Islands and Greenland in the face of climate change.

To know more about Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner’s works, you may check out kathyjetnilkijiner.com, where you also can find a poem video of Rise: From One Island to Another.




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