Vanessa Sahatoo-Manoo

San Fernando - September 24, 2013 - Last Sunday, our lovely delegates had the opportunity to meet one of Trinidad and Tobago’s finest female youth environmental Ambassadors, Miss Rianna Gonzales.

Miss Rianna Gonzales is an astute, passionate and committed young woman in the field environment, environmental awareness and youth participation. She believes that environmental advocacy, planning and education should focus on communities and development of community based solutions to environmental degradation and as it relates to climate change. Her lifelong vision is:  The empowerment of young people with knowledge so they can rethink their own actions, redesign their habits to renew their own environment, people are the key to change.

Rianna read for her first degree in Environmental and Natural Resources Management (with minors in Marine Biology and Zoology) at UWI, St Augustine. During her time at University she has volunteered with UWI BioSociety on Turtle Patrols, worked with the Smithsonian Institute in the collection of genetic material of marine fishes in Tobago as well assisted HALCROW Trinidad and Tobago on research for the Guidebook for  Hydrodynamic Considerations in Coastal and Marine CEC Applications which is utilized by the Environmental Management Authority (EMA).
In 2009, upon graduating from University she spent six (6) weeks in Tobago with the Coral Cay Conservation, a UK based NGO, on their Coastal Ecosystem Mapping Project, where she gained her Advanced Open Water Diving Certification (PADI) as well as extensive knowledge on marine fishes and coral identification and diseases.

In 2012 she was elected as Regional Chairperson of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) as well as the National Coordinator in Trinidad and Tobago.  She has organized national events, training, various educational visits to schools, and clean ups to promote awareness of environmental issues and build youth participation and capacity in Trinidad and Tobago. She has also represented the country as part of the Caribbean youth delegation at several UN Conferences to promote youth empowerment and participation in policy development in the areas of sustainable development. She also sits on the Advisory Board of Sustain T&T that promotes sustainable living and industry and sits on the TTEITI Youth Advisory Committee, which aims to bring the extractive industries to be more transparent and not only accountable to the people but also the environment.

Rianna was recognized for her environmental work by the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women and was honoured with the National Award for the Young Woman of the Year: Environmental category. In 2013 she was nominated for National Youth Awards in the categories of Leadership and Environmental Work.

Currently, she is pursuing her Msc. in Coastal Engineering and Management and is employed at the Water Resources Agency where she is the coordinator of the Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) Stakeholder forum which comprises of governmental and non-governmental organizations, community based organisations, and other civil society participants as well as facilitates on the Adopt A River Program. Rianna also is one of the youngest members of a team of experts responsible for research and development of the National Integrated Coastal Zone Management Policy for Trinidad and Tobago. Her focal area is the vulnerability and adaptation to climate change from a national perspective.

Miss Gonzales was warmly greeted by our delegates and further, they all participated in the annual Inter-coastal beach clean-up yesterday at Hart’s Cut Bay, Anchorage. Our Miss Oneness T&T worked alongside the Trinidad and Tobago Solid Waste Management Company (SWMCOL) as part of their environmental commitment. This exercise was warmly received and our ladies were amazed that there is yet so much still to be done to educate their fellow citizens. On one occasion while on the clean-up trail at the mangrove with one of the SWMCOL’s Directors – Mr. Josh Peters, our delegates came across a family of crabs who were trapped in a plastic bag in the mangrove. This find was very hurtful and sadden our ladies and during the Personality Evening judging session a few of them told the Judges how they felt and that they believe there is still much to do, to better educate people on some of the simple ills of society plaguing our environment.

Apart from the typical excitement that pageantry ignites, every one of our charming and diligent delegates expressed their appreciation that our pageant is very focused on helping those on need and in broadening their commitment towards the preservation and conservation of Mother Earth.