“It is time to go beyond a focus on women’s vulnerabilities to the recognition of women as agents of change and active participants in caring for the environment, restoring and recovering biodiversity, and healing our relationship with nature.” On Earth Day, our Honorary member Cristina Eghenter offers her reflections on women in conservation.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate women’s achievements and contributions to life but also be reminded of what is still missing in terms of realizing equity and equality for women, including in the realm of natural resources and the governance of nature.
“Each for Equal – an equal world is an enabled world” was the theme of this year and 2020 has been called the super-year for biodiversity. This October at the 15th Convention on Biological Diversity, a new global framework for biodiversity will be discussed and agreed upon by 196 governments. Will 2020 also be the super year for women in biodiversity and the recognition of women as biodiversity defenders and custodians in their own right?
Women across cultures and places have important roles as farmers, specialists in medicinal plants, fisherfolks, harvesters and collectors, seed keepers and managers of biodiversity. While they play vital roles in the management of natural resources, women have often been excluded from governance mechanisms and decision making, or poorly represented in budget allocations or even conservation initiatives.
Women have developed unique bodies of knowledge, skills and experience related to plants, fish and animals, wild and domesticated, and their habitats. They have conservation and sustainability values.
Yet, this has not always translated into shared power or an equal role in the formal management of such resources, nor in meaningful participation in the development of regulations that might affect women and the biodiversity they use and benefit from.
In Indonesia, coastal areas are the living space where indigenous and local women also manage ecological and economic assets for their families and communities. Women fish and gather shells in tidal and mangrove areas. Those are the resources that their livelihoods depend on. They are also fish traders such as the papalele in Maluku.
Through sustainable use and local knowledge, they build their economic resilience and that of their families and conserve nature. However, how much of this knowledge is documented and valued? How are the role and rights of women in the management of marine and coastal resources recognized and strengthened in Marine Protected Areas?
A few years ago, at a workshop on women’s leadership and marine conservation, women from communities and local governments in eastern Indonesia called for a new model of management that is based on economic and cultural rights, adopts customary use and recognizes the role and sovereignty of women as “ecological keepers”.
In eastern Indonesia bameti is the sustainable use of marine resources by women in coastal areas, which is not just a local subsistence activity.
Sometimes, the way we refer to an activity can result in neglecting its full function and undervaluing its significance. This has often been the case in the context of women and natural resources.
Their contribution, pivotal in local farming and agroforestry regimes, and food systems, has either been ignored at the formal decision-making level or disregarded in the development of policies that could promote sustainability and equity by securing tenure rights of women over resources.
Given today’s double biodiversity and climate crises, and most recently a global health emergency, we cannot afford to overlook half of the wisdom, practices and innovations in support of the sustainable use of nature.
This is as much a practical consideration as a matter of social redress and equality. We need the full participation of women at all levels of policy-making and implementation.
It is time to go beyond a focus on women’s vulnerabilities to the recognition of women as agents of change and active participants in caring for the environment, in restoring and recovering biodiversity, and healing our relation with nature.
The year 2020 could be the opportunity to agree on a new global framework that takes into full account the gender and biodiversity nexus, and advances the values, equality and responsibility of women in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.
Every day, all over the world, women continue to play ecological roles and make countless choices that affect the environment and biodiversity. They educate the future generations and share traditional knowledge related to biodiversity. They make critical decisions for building economic resilience and security of their families and communities. It is precisely these strengths and common traditions that we could draw on, to bring together more effectively the environmental and development agendas to safeguard our future.
Women can be the actors to ensure that integration, and help bridge the inequality gap to move toward a healthier, more inclusive, equitable and equal world and nature.
Voices from young women in conservation in Indonesia on Earth Day 2020
Arum Kinasih, Hari Bhumi, Indonesia.
Rough translation (video statement by Arum, Indonesia).
“Mother Earth has given us life, in return mother Earth was hurt. Earth has given us water, clean air, flora and fauna, all that we need for our lives. We do not need to teach nature how to sustain life on Earth, mother Earth knows how to take care of life and us. Rising temperatures and global warming occur because of growing population, industry, unsustainable consumption and production that have wounded our earth while environmental degradation has spread. Our sense and duty to care for the Earth are ignored the moment we fail to remember the meaning of ‘mother’, mother Earth. Let’s live in harmony with nature, let’s treasure mother earth, the place where we stay. Happy Earth Day!”
Videos republished from “Voices of young women in conservation in Indonesia for Earth Day 2020“.
Featured image: © Women4Biodiversity.