Französisch-Polynesien: Unutea Hirshon

Basically, I am a rebel: at school, I was always in trouble for not following the rules.

— Unutea Hirshon

Tahitian activist Unutea Hirshon campaigns for a nuclear-free and independent French Polynesia and for peace in the wider Pacific. Unutea's work covers many spheres: as a member of the independence party Tavini Huiraatira no Te Ao Maohi, supporting those affected by French nuclear testing with the Tahitian branch of WILPF, networking across the region with the Nuclear-Free and Independent Pacific movement, documenting her colonized people's cultural heritage through dance, music, and tattooing, and serving as an elected member of the local Assembly since 2001.

A campaigner for a nuclear-free and independent Pacific, Tahitian activist Unutea (Tea) Hirshon is inspired by those who have gone before, and by young people who take action today. In 1966 – the year France detonated its first nuclear weapon at Moruroa Atoll in French Polynesia – Tea met the ageing Polynesian independence leader Pouvanaa a Oopa, in Paris. A charismatic figure, Pouvanaa was exiled from Tahiti in the late 1950s, an act that disrupted French Polynesia's burgeoning independence struggle as France was setting up its nuclear testing program in its colony. For the young Tea, the meeting was inspirational, linking the struggles of the past with the promise of the future: "I was 20 when a friend in Paris brought me to visit him. Tahitians visiting France would pay Pouvanaa a visit, while he was under house arrest there: he was already a legend. I was really moved to see him, but I said little. He was an imposing man – not the type you could have a chit-chat conversation with. But just being in the same room and feeling his presence was impressive." For Tea, this link with past struggles inspired her to work for peace and self-determination: "When I was young, I overheard conversations in my home about Pouvanaa. My French stepfather would speak about him as a crazy man, one who would speak about the Bible when he held political meetings. Of course, a French mind would consider that totally strange! But it impressed me as a ten-year-old girl, so when I actually met him, I remembered right away what was said about him." Today, Tea is herself an elder in the independence movement of French Polynesia and a role model for young activists, describing herself as "godmother" of Generation Taui, a movement of young people campaigning for self-determination in the French Pacific colony.

Tavini Huiraatira no Te Ao Maohi (serve the Polynesian people) Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement (NFIP)