Aichi Biodiversity Target 14: By 2020, ecosystems that provide essential services, including services related to water, and contribute to health, livelihoods and well-being, are restored and safeguarded, taking into account the needs of women, indigenous and local communities, and the poor and vulnerable.
Understanding and enhancing the role of women in biodiversity is crucial for effective conservation. This is recognised by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity through the 2015 – 2020 Gender Plan of Action which follows the 2008 Gender Plan of Action to support the promotion of gender equality in measures to implement the Convention.
The CBD Gender Plan of Action has four key objectives these are - to mainstream a gender perspective into the implementation of the Convention; to promote gender equality in achieving the objectives of the Convention and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets; to demonstrate the benefits of gender mainstreaming in measures towards biodiversity conservation; and to increase the effectiveness of the work under the Convention.
“For us this is important as women in Tonga lead various interactive social and political circles ranging from being leaders of livelihoods of families in the homes, to leaders of government departments and ministries that work towards achieving the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets,” said Ms Ta’hirih Hokafonu, the Principal Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment within the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of Tonga.
Tonga is represented by a delegation of four all of whom are women at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity now underway in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
“At the policy level, the Ministry of Environment has reflected the CBD Gender Plan of Action in our National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Framework to strengthen the involvement of women in the design of and management of projects to ensure an equitable share of benefits.”
45% of the world’s population depends on agriculture, forestry, fishing or hunting for their livelihoods. Women make up 43% of the total agricultural labour force in developing countries, they produce a large portion of the world’s food crops.
Reports by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation also show that enabling women to access productive resources to the same extent as men would have many positive impacts. Increase in yields on women’s farms by 20 – 30% could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 – 4% which in turn would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 – 17%.
For Small Island States like Kiribati, the CBD Gender Plan of Action is useful to help define the important but differentiated roles and responsibilities that men and women play in the Kiribati local environment and cultural setting.
In Kiribati, women play important roles in the conservation and sustainable use of resources that help support local food security, herbal medicinal care, keeping traditional lifestyle and culture alive through the continual use of traditional knowledge for making handicrafts, weaving, traditional food preservation techniques, and living in harmony with their natural environment through food gathering and harvesting on land and at sea.
“Women and men have important roles in ensuring that there is adequate local food security, enhancing local food availability and abundance both on land and at sea,” said Ms Nenenteiti Teariki-Ruatu, the Director of the Environment and Conservation Division of the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development of Kiribati. Ms Teariki-Ruatu is also attending the CBD COP14.
“But there is always a challenge in which local men and women of today, do not fully understand the importance of conservation to their livelihoods, especially when their daily lives are so dependent upon the sustainable use of our natural resources. We need to work together, to make people understand, appreciate and respect our biodiversity.”
Despite these challenges there are women across the Pacific that strive for effective nature conservation, understanding the value it has for our Pacific communities and livelihoods. Whether at the community level, within government ministries, or at the Pacific regional level.
The role of Pacific women within the biodiversity field is apparent at the CBD COP14. Of the 11 Pacific island Parties attending the UN conference in Sharm El Sheikh, four have delegations made up of only women, with two having women as more than half of their delegation. The Palau head of delegation who also represents the Asia Pacific Group on the COP Bureau is a woman and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) also attending the CBD COP14 to support the Pacific island Parties has a majority of women in their delegation.
“The 2015 – 2020 Gender Plan of Action is relevant to SPREP and its work in the Pacific. SPREP has a gender policy already in place to guide and support the integration and mainstreaming of gender in our strategic programmes and projects specifically in the areas of climate change resilience, island and oceanic ecosystems, waste management and pollution control and in environmental monitoring and governance,” said Ms Easter Galuvao, Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance of SPREP. Ms. Galuvao is also a member of the SPREP delegation at the CBD COP14.
“Pacific women play a key role in biodiversity conservation and natural resource management. They are excellent resource managers and stewards of our environment. This was something that I was fortunate to experience while growing up as a young Pacific woman and also through community work that I have been involved in.”
Within the CBD Gender Plan of Action 2015 – 2020 there are a range of actions proposed for Parties to ensure that they can identify and understand gender-differentiated biodiversity practices and knowledge of women and men to enhance biodiversity conservation.
These include considering the different risks faced by men and women as a result of actions under the Convention on Biological Diversity, engaging women’s groups already active in related sectors such as agriculture, fisheries, and forestry as well as to provide training and awareness raising on the links between gender and biodiversity to interested staff, indigenous and local communities and policymakers.
There are many Pacific women who are role models who encourage more Pacific women to engage in nature conservation and biodiversity action.
“I am passionate about conservation work as it will ensure security of the environment that my family, fellow country-men and nation depends on. If this goes unchecked then there is no security for a better and healthy life for my children, their children and their children in the future. To get somewhere we have to start now, and although it seems like a difficult task today, every little contribution of individuals, of communities and collectively as a nation can make a significant change for the better if all are of the same mind” – Ta’hirih Hokafonu, Tonga.
“I would strongly encourage more women to pursue a career in biodiversity and nature conservation and to take up opportunities to be involved as there is so much we can do and contribute to biodiversity conservation at the policy level as well as through on the ground activities. Working with local communities can be very rewarding as it provides a good sense of balance and to put things into perspective” – Easter Galuvao.
“Find your passion and go for it. Find inspiration and mentors, both men and women, embrace opportunities that arise, create opportunities and gain experience by taking up volunteer roles, and enjoy the diverse journey that working in the environment field offers” – Amanda Wheatley, Acting Biodiversity Adviser, SPREP.
“I see the potential for women to make a change through the roles they play in biodiversity conservation. Having worked for about seven years on climate change and biodiversity conservation for the Government of Tonga, I used to think that as a woman from a developing country and one of the Small Islands Developing States, it would be hard to make a difference in conservation, but no – it is possible. One has to be passionate, committed and ready to take on the challenge. Always be instrumental, know what you need and work to inspire. Make that difference.” - Ms Ofa Kaisamy, the Legal Adviser for the SPREP Access and Benefit Sharing Pacific Regional Project.
“Defining, understanding, and appreciating what gender really means to men and women of the Pacific islands region and in Kiribati in particular, in todays’ society is crucial. The culture and traditions of the Pacific Islands are very unique with unique expectations also on the different roles and responsibilities of men and women. Bringing men and women to work together can help harness the support and cooperation of all to strive for healthy biodiversity in our Pacific. I encourage all men and women interested in this field to take that step and work for the conservation of our biodiversity - Nenenteiti Teariki - Ruatu, Kiribati.
For more information on the CBD Gender Plan of Action please visit: https://www.cbd.int/gender/action-plan/