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This event is a follow-up to the October 11 a high-level event on advancing gender considerations in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, held in parallel to the opening of the first part of the CBD COP 15 (15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity). Held this Human Rights Day, is also part of the 16 Days of Activism campaign, #HerSafetyIsPriority.
Gender-based inequalities are pervasive across the world, impacting not only the social, cultural, economic, and legal rights of women, but also their ability to equally and effectively participate in policy and decision-making, which impacts their lives and dignity.
The violence also extends to women’s relationship with the environment, particularly in their access and control of natural resources, and environmental pressures and threats and environmental actions to defend and conserve ecosystems and resources.
Women represent the world’s majority of the poor, landless, illiterate, and informal and unpaid workforce.
Addressing challenges and response through intersectionality of environmental justice and gender justice
Policy and Partnerships Advisor
Indigenous Peoples Fund Pastoral Communities Empowerment Programme (PACEP)
- A gender assessment in forest areas in 20 counties in Kenya looked at inclusion, issues of women’s access to forest resources, engagement in leadership, and other aspects. What came out strongly was issues of incidence of gender-based violence (GBV), even though it was not one of the areas they were trying to look at.
- Coming into the discussion on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, there is a lot of discussion on issues, and we have seen even locally, a lot of aspects in ensuring inclusion in local governance. We have key policies and our Constitution, but there is a gap in addressing inequality issues especially gender. [We also need] progressive language in our policies, a social-inclusive approach.
- Indigenous women are at the front lines in conservation, in using natural resources for the community and defending lands and territories. The study’s findings also show that indigenous women work more in conservation than men. They also engage youth. There is a gap, though, in terms of their 1) presence in leadership and decision-making spaces, 2) access and control of resources, and 3) lack of capacity building. As indigenous women, they thrive when their capacity is strengthened and in engaging with others.
- There is a disconnect in environmental policies in terms of natural resource management, in land rights, especially in forest policies.
- Different conservation approaches are gender-blind, not informed by gender analysis in terms of power, control, and access, use, and management. They continue to burden women, threaten women’s rights, including tenure rights. These are challenges in government-gazetted areas or forest or even protected areas that limit access and use, even though we have a participatory forest management model. These models are flawed as we see abuse of power and exacerbation of violence against women, even physical violence, when they are accessing simple resources like firewood for subsistence use. They do not know where to report, or where to seek help, because the perpetrators are in power.
Indigenous Women Network in Thailand (IWNT), Thailand
- The challenge here in Thailand is that indigenous peoples’ rights and identity are not recognized by the government and also in our communities. There’s no confidence in women’s capacity now because men always see women as someone who cannot do anything, who only follow men’s orders. Women’s voices are not included in planning, decision-making, and policies.
- In Thailand, we are considered a minority group, considered as the people who are living in a forest, and who are not supposed to live there. The forest is our house, our homes, our land, but we are not allowed to live there. The government has many ideas and policies to restore biodiversity and increase forest areas, but at the same time they don’t really recognize that there are indigenous people living in the forest. They are the ones who preserve and maintain the biodiversity in those areas.
- The challenge in Thailand is the lack of recognition of the involvement of indigenous people and indigenous women in maintaining the biodiversity in forest areas.
Vice President and Coordinator
Network of Indigenous Peoples in Solomon Islands (NIPS), Solomon Islands
- Whatever conservation models are used, it has to be contextualized where it fits the local biodiversity, the cultures, traditions, and people. We should also ensure full participation of indigenous local communities in the processes, especially women. A lot of the models are from the outside coming into the community, so it can be challenging for the people in the community to adapt. That’s why it’s important to contextualize. And in all the processes, decision-making, whatever projects that are implemented, or conservation of biodiversity, we have to include women, because women are very important stakeholders, even if they are not heard or seen in a lot of reports.
- At the community level, women work a lot in biodiversity conservation because they use it a lot, especially for food, and also for medicine. Women in the communities also do it because of their kids and livelihood.
- We have a protected areas act. We don’t have a lot of land in our areas and if there is a protected area, there is no freedom for people to access resources, because it won’t allow people to access for a very long period of time. But to me, if we use the local traditional way of conserving, it will allow people to access the resources as well. And we know how to look after it using our traditional knowledge, where we can put them aside for a certain period of time but not as long as required by the law.
- In many provinces and communities we have fishing aggregated devices in marine areas to conserve reefs, and there people can access tuna. We should encourage more women to be involved in this. Maybe there should be a policy in place for this. Women are usually left to other economic activities to support their families but which do not really get much income. If we encourage more women in our communities and Solomon Islands to participate in this, it will help us.
- In terms of gender based violence, we had a rise in cases. In October, a ten-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and murdered. Whatever biodiversity conservation activities we include our women, we must ensure that the times for them are safe, and they won’t be vulnerable to perpetrators. Local communities need to be aware of that as well, and advocacy work needs to also come from everywhere, from the government, from organizations that also work in biodiversity conservation. We need to do capacity building for this because our work also puts women in a vulnerable position.
Envisioning a rights-based approach in integrating gender-responsive approaches in biodiversity conservation
- Gender issues should be incorporated in the process of developing the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. People saw a gap in terms of gender issues, especially looking at the linkages in biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. We need better biodiversity conservation initiatives; now, many of them are not informed by gender analysis.
- However, there is no specific tool kit that informs the design of these initiatives. The National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan, for example, may just mention the inclusion of women, but with no deliberate effort at different levels to look at what are the gaps in terms of gender issues, the inequality or structural issues that impede women’s engagement.
- We have policies in place, but policies lack progressive language. We have advancement in community land rights in Kenya that strengthen women’s access and land rights, but guidelines to take such measures forward are missing.
- There is not a lot of resources, technical or financial, to build into the agenda, gender issues and addressing gender gaps. Why not have a budget for it? We look at how we advance women’s engagement in this and strengthen their inclusion in management and such.
- Many strategies that do have funds do not really ensure that they respect traditional and customary practices, and also governance structures that are already there.
- It’s time to shift the burden from women and also to let the actors in the conservation sector, whether policymakers or practitioners, increase their knowledge and capacity to understand women’s rights’ linkage to environment and gender-based violence.
Involving the whole of community in changing attitudes towards women
- The training is key in changing people’s attitudes and mindset and the way forward in our trainings in terms of gender-based violence.
- Gender-based violence is common in rural areas – that’s why it is very important to address those gender issues in our work in biodiversity conservation.
- My organization has been working on women’s rights issues for more than 20 years, but we have never been successful. But in the past three years now we have tried to change our approach. We started to include men in our activities. In indigenous communities, males are leaders, spiritual leaders, and are important actors.
- In Hmong indigenous communities, women are not allowed to come back to their families after divorce or after becoming widows. This has been revised after we worked with male leaders. We are now able to perform a ceremony and welcome at least 50 indigenous women back to their families, with the help and the support of the male leaders and also the parents who understand and listen to these male leaders.
- It is very important that we should encourage law and involve men in our women’s rights movement so that we could make some change to our society.
- Changing behaviors and attitudes takes a lot of time. We also bank on using champions, and also engaging all actors and everyone in their communities to know how gender issues, including gender-based violence, have linkages with conservation.
- We are seeing progress but it’s slower. It could be better, but there’s resistance because people do not understand, or maybe because the actors are the perpetrators and nobody’s holding them accountable.
- Shifting the burden from women is really up to us, as well as increasing awareness on the issue and showing leadership in addressing the gaps in women’s engagement, violence linked to environment, and discrimination and inequality.
On Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with women in conservation projects
- We have forest policy in Solomon Islands, but have issues in implementation. Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is important. It brings everyone together and informs them, before any development takes place in the land or resources the government is interested in, whether it’s for mining or logging.
- Women are forgotten, and also underrepresented groups who are not landowners, so getting their free, prior and informed consent is important. Some communities do apply the FPIC process, but many communities don’t. It is a challenge for people in the local communities, because resources are not enough.
- When tribal lands are included in protected areas, the people depending on the resources there need to look somewhere else. There needs to be more consultation on that.
- In Kenya, we worked for the past four years with indigenous people and also government actors on developing free and prior informed consent guidelines, which we hoped would inform the work of other actors in undertaking FPIC engaging with indigenous people.
- In our experiences in big conservation projects, the government always complains FPIC is costly and they want to bypass it. Now I think maybe they’re learning because two projects by the European Union and one recently by the Finnish government worth more than 30 millions of dollars were cancelled because the government ignored following the FPIC guidelines.Specifically,the 2018 Finnish government €9.5 million fund to the Kenya Forest Service Natural Resource Management Project was cancelled after indigenous peoples (Sengewer community) brought complaints to the to Finnish government. Issues were lack of consultation in design of project and violent eviction from their ancestral lands and loss of some lives. This resulted in community displacement and women and children being more impacted.
- In one cancelled project, all the other local communities accepted the project, but one minority group didn’t. I said it’s about inclusion – why did you ignore this forest- dependent community, and said you have the consent of other communities yet you know this significant community will be more disenfranchised? FPIC is costly but it’s more costly to address rights infringement in the future.
- In bridging the gap in development and women’s issues, it all boils down to having respect for self-determined development and also looking at gender analysis. This is the first fundamental step in policy development in design. If you do not do gender analysis to understand the priorities and needs of indigenous women at the local level (because they know better), then what are you basing your initiative on?
- Understanding the linkages between gender equality, human rights and conservation is important. Platforms like Women4Biodiversity are trying to raise that kind of awareness, which I think the government and other practitioners are ignoring. In empowering women in conservation, we need to be at the front lines in terms of advancing policy and also in informing policy.
- Indigenous women have been invited to inform national level policy on climate change adaptation so hopefully, indigenous women will also be given that space in biodiversity.
Closing Messages and Reflections
- Within the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, they should embrace gender as an essential element. And I think it’s important to have it (Target 22) as a standalone goal, even though it informs the aspirations and meeting all the other targets. I think the framework should ensure that the “ living in harmony with nature” aspiration should be more progressive in advancing women’s rights and also really addressing the inequality issues that ensures that indigenous women have the same rights, and to contribute and to benefit from conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
- I stress the importance of gender sensitization because we have had some experience here in Thailand. One indigenous woman got elected into the local office. She’s very aware of women’s issues but she could not do much because of her colleagues, the structure, and policies that are not so friendly to women issues. In the end she resigned. So it’s very important to work on gender sensitization and also to try to change the social structure to make it fair and friendly for gender issues for women. Otherwise, we could not make any change and build a just society for all the people.
- I support what Edna said about gender analysis and also to ensure that biodiversity financing is easily accessed. One of the gaps in Solomon Islands is the linkage between government, provincial government and all the stakeholders and groups in local communities. We can properly strengthen those links, and can do a mapping exercise so that we can connect what people are doing, and then we can make a big network to work in this environmental sector.
- It is very important to have gender policies for biodiversity conservation as well. And we have CBD focal points. I really liked the idea of having a gender focal point. This would be important, because that’s where we can integrate gender issues, and address them as well.
Reactions and testimonies
“We really need to listen to the women on the ground. That is where things happen, at national and local levels, and can effectively influence the agenda at global level.”
Cristina Eghenter, WWF International
“While we all come from different diverse backgrounds, there are certain things that bind us. We found their commonalities (among the speakers) in a lot of our situations. In the future, we could even have a global dialogue between communities who are facing similar things from two points of the world. Another thing for the future is a gender-sensitive toolkit – maybe together, we could build on it from our experiences, and it could be a living, breathing document that constantly keeps changing, depending on people’s experiences”.