ASEAN women: Leaders towards an inclusive sustainable future
Press Statement, International Women’s Day, 8 March 2022
Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim
Executive Director, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity joins the world today as it celebrates the invaluable contributions and roles of women in leading and building a sustainable future for all.
The ASEAN region is blessed with rich biodiversity that can support nature-based solutions to climate change. Protection against natural hazards is among the ecosystem services that biodiversity provides: forests inland wetlands and oceans act as carbon sinks and regulate flooding; healthy mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs dissipate enormous waves and reduce damages from storm surges; the diversity of species and genetic materials that surround us, add to our capacity to become more resilient.
This year’s International Women’s Day, with the theme, “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,” accentuates the strength and capacity for leadership of women in effective climate actions. Women continue to face and triumphantly overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges in the fight towards the realisation of gender equality. Like the diversity in Nature, gender representation is a significant element of resiliency that assures us of a sustainable future as a people.
With a significant number of women employed in agriculture–64 per cent in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 39 per cent in Viet Nam, and 34 per cent in Cambodia; and other livelihoods that depend greatly on natural resources–women bear the brunt of the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. This gives impetus to the need for gender inclusivity in climate and disaster risk reduction policies and response, and in including nature as part of the solution. The adverse effects of the changing environment put women’s health and livelihoods at stake, thus their participation in preventing these is crucial.
We are heartened that key regional and international statements and frameworks recognise the central role of women in addressing current challenges. Today, we see more gender-inclusive climate actions and environmental management initiatives from organisations and national institutions, sparking more local and voluntary efforts from women all over the world and in the region. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s newest publication launched this International Women’s Day, Best Practices in Gender and Biodiversity: Pathways for Multiple Benefits compiles case studies and best practices to promote and uphold gender equality and mainstreaming in biodiversity efforts across the globe and to serve as a support and guide for gender-responsive biodiversity policies and actions for post-2020.
In the ASEAN region, women-led initiatives have aided women empowerment in rural communities and the conservation of pertinent species. In Lao PDR, women are at the heart of its National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), ensuring that gender concerns are integrated in its implementation.
Indonesia scaled up its gender responsiveness by mainstreaming gender in its environmental law enforcement approaches; women are also at the centre of the Bujang Raba Community Payment for Ecosystems Services (PES) project, recognising women’s extensive indigenous knowledge and central role in the protection and management of its natural resources, particularly its tropical mountainous forests.
Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) signed a partnership to mainstream gender and development concerns and activities across all its programmes and departments, and to launch specialised courses on gender sensitivity in the workplace for its staff. To complement the support given by the ACB in one of the Philippines’ ASEAN Heritage Park (AHP), Mts. Iglit-Baco, a women-led crowdfunding campaign project that produced a documentary to raise awareness on the endangered buffalo species endemic to the island of Mindoro, the Tamaraw or Mindoro dwarf buffalo has birthed a sustainable ecotourism project in the AHP.
Truly, women are leaders in their communities towards gender-inclusive environmental policies and actions, mainstreaming gender at local, regional, and international levels. As the ASEAN’s regional hub for biodiversity, the ACB’s actions and activities aim to complement these national initiatives empowering not only the women but the communities as a whole. The ACB recognises the impressive and meaningful participation of the women who lead and strengthen its programmes and upholds that empowering women is an important part of the collective action towards the protection and restoration of the region’s rich natural resources and biodiversity.
We are in a critical race against time to protect our planet and create a more sustainable tomorrow for future generations, and women play a vital role in achieving this. Our investment in empowering them through education and capacity-building efforts will in turn not only advance our cause for gender equality but will also assure that the future we are building is a future for all.