06 Dec 2017 Story Ecosystems

Why gender is important for biodiversity conservation

A recent meeting in Bangkok hosted by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity developed training materials to advance gender inclusion in biodiversity planning in the Asia-Pacific region.

“If we do not consider gender we increase the loss of biodiversity, due to mismanagement and unsustainable use, [and] the loss of important traditional knowledge, skills and experiences,” says one of the workshop participants, Soseala Saosaoa Tinilau, Tuvalu’s Director of Environment. 

“For example, women in one of the Pacific Island countries [unspecified] were not consulted in coastal fisheries management for the reason that men are responsible for fishing, but it was found that women are involved in agriculture activity which had a downstream impact on a reef through increasing sedimentation,” he adds.

Disregarding gender can aggravate poverty and inequality, so it is wise to try to do something about it.

UN Environment has been stepping up its work on gender and biodiversity in the region. At the end of November it supported the Convention on Biological Diversity in bringing together 25 biodiversity and gender experts to develop training materials for the region at a three-day workshop in Bangkok.

Gender professionals, national biodiversity stakeholders, civil society, research institutes, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Centre for Biodiversity, and UN agencies attended the workshop. The training materials developed will help integrate gender and biodiversity into government planning.

This will be a major contribution to implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Participants at the Asia-Pacific gender/biodiversity workshop in Bangkok, 28-30 Nov 2017

“The material will serve as a bridge between gender and biodiversity to train government staff and national and regional practitioners responsible for supporting the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans,” says UN Environment gender and environment expert Annette Wallgren.

Among men and women in the region, biodiversity is closely connected to development, access to resources, income-generating activities, food, and essential household products. From this perspective, the disciplines of biodiversity and gender overlap, and indeed are intrinsically linked. 

“While collecting, utilizing and selling plant and animal products is a daily routine for many women and men in the world, the concepts of gender and biodiversity remain abstract and unconnected to many policymakers and practitioners in the environment field,” says Wallgren.

“Adding to the challenge is the need to tailor knowledge materials to specific region and country contexts,” she notes.

Gender perspective

Asia's remarkable economic growth has brought many benefits through higher incomes and employment but this growth has also fuelled threats to ecosystems and biodiversity through habitat degradation and biodiversity loss.

These threats affect men and women differently so to plan for the best sustainable solutions, a gender perspective is required. This perspective allows practitioners and policymakers to consider everyone’s capacity, skills and knowledge in the design and implementation of sustainable solutions.    

Currently gender professionals have insufficient knowledge and experience on biodiversity conservation strategies, while biodiversity specialists do not have the awareness of national policies and priorities for gender equality.

Country support for Lao PDR, Myanmar

In partnership with the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), UN Environment is rolling out country support in Lao PDR and Myanmar to build capacity and set up institutional arrangements for gender inclusive National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans. Key partners in the initiative are the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the UN Environment-World Conservation and Monitoring Centre, which will provide support on developing gender indicators.

During the third session of the United Nations Environment Assembly, UN Environment and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity signed a Letter of Intent highlighting the areas of future cooperation between the two institutions, including the integration of gender considerations into National Biodiversity Strategies.

For further information: Annette Wallgren, Gender and Environment Officer, UN Environment Asia and the Pacific office Annette.Wallgren[at]unep.org

Tanya McGregor, Gender Programme Officer, Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity Tanya.McGregor[at]cbd.int

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