ASEAN praises women’s role in biodiversity conservation

EXECUTIVE Director of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity Dr Theresa Mundita Lim, an ASEAN biodiversity expert, praised the active role that women play in conserving biodiversity. In her press statement in connection with the celebration of International Women’s Day, Dr Lim said women, for centuries, have served as caretakers of the environment, especially in villages.

She said that rural women have used plants for traditional medicine, fuel, and natural fertilisers and pesticides. Women also play major roles in farming. In many Asian and African countries, women sow and harvest. At their backyards, they grow gardens and raise livestock to ensure sustainable supply of food for their families.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more women are getting involved in farming due to migration of men to urban areas for employment, thus, giving them increasing roles in food security.

“In many rural villages, women are the direct users of biodiversity and ecosystems. The women’s role as stewards of their children and families has developed in them a special relationship with the environment. As direct users of biodiversity and ecosystem services, the women have taken the lead in protecting our natural heritage,” Dr Lim explained.

“We, at the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, continue to mainstream biodiversity in gender development. We recently concluded a project with Germany’s GIZ – the Institutional Strengthening of the Biodiversity Sector in ASEAN – which included a component on developing a regional strategy on gender mainstreaming, particularly in the highly valued ASEAN Heritage Parks in the ASEAN member states. The project further established the importance of harnessing the role of women in the community in managing and conserving natural resources.

As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Dr Lim called on governments to engage more women in the biodiversity policy and decision-making process.

“Governments and civil societies must work together in implementing various international conventions on gender and the environment to ensure the participation of women in conservation efforts.” She emphasised that biodiversity conservation must be mainstreamed in gender programmes, including agriculture and food security where women continue to have increasing roles. “Gender development and biodiversity conservation are cross cutting issues in our society, thus, the need to include gender concerns into national biodiversity strategies and action plans.”

Dr Lim said this year’s theme of the International Women’s Day is very timely – Balance for the Better. The theme, she said, reflects the importance of gender equality. This entails equal partaking of both women and men in all opportunities, as the world moves towards further economic growth and shared global prosperity.

“For women, balance for the better may also mean the challenge of juggling the time between work and loved ones. Likewise, maintaining balance between meeting consumer demands while conserving the environment is also a key to the much-desired global goals on sustainable development,” Dr Lim stressed.