VIEWPOINT: Women and youth in conservation

Posted on 02 June 2014    
Jackie Thomas
© Jackie Thomas
During the discussion on a Women Leaders event at the 9th Senior Officials Meeting in Manila last November, I looked around the room at the 6 country delegations and was pleasantly surprised -- the overwhelming majority of the delegates were women.

The idea was to celebrate women leaders in conservation during an event in conjunction with the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) and 5th Ministerial Meeting and the World Coral Reef Conference in Manado, Indonesia, marking the fifth anniversary of the CTI-CFF.

Within 6 months of that SOM meeting, the green light was given to hold a Women Leaders Forum at the May Ministerial Meeting. A team of amazing women and men mobilized to create a memorable showcase event in Manado that recognized the achievements of women across the Coral Triangle. Six women who are largely working at grassroots level and who are having incredible positive impacts on their communities and their environments were awarded.

It also launched the CTI-CFF Women Leaders’ Forum as a peer-learning network for women who are playing key leadership roles and leading programmes and projects that promote marine and coastal resource management. It is also a platform to build the capacity of women from the Coral Triangle so that they can take a more active role in preserving and sustaining the region’s unique marine and coastal resources.

This achievement is a testament to the commitment of the women who are members of the CTI-CFF. Women are playing critical roles at multiple scales throughout the CTI-CFF – they are heads of national delegations; they are directors of government agencies and leaders of civil society organisations. They are also community leaders and are providers of income, food, education and nurturing for their immediate and often very extended families.

In the five years that I have been attending CTI-CFF meetings and events, I’ve experienced the wonderful camaraderie, friendship and respect shared by the women from both government and development partners. What the Women Leaders’ Network will do is to also bring in the women working in country at the national and local levels for their communities. This is an empowering step forward and can only bring greater depth and strength to the overall CTI-CFF.

To the organisers of the Women Leaders’ Network awards ceremony in Manado last week, my heartfelt congratulations and appreciation to you for your vision and commitment to this inaugural event celebrating and advancing the role of women.

To Marta Lotang from Indonesia, Francesca Ngo Winfield from Malaysia, Piwen Langarap from Papua New Guinea, Alma Bool from the Philippines, Moira Dasipio from the Solomon Islands and Robela Mendes from Timor-Leste, the six women who were awarded for their commitment and actions across the six countries of the Coral Triangle, congratulations to you all.

And to our dear friend and colleague, Creusa (Tetha) Hitipeuw who passed away in December, and who was awarded posthumously for her leading role in marine species conservation in Indonesia and throughout the Coral Triangle region, we will remember you.

A challenge for us as members of the CTI-CFF I see now is how do we bring in the youth? We have a forum for women, multiple fora for industry and the private sector, so how do we now bring into the CTI-CFF the powerful role of the younger people who have ideas, energy, creativity, enthusiasm and are an untapped powerhouse of innovation that is available to the CTI-CFF as a collaborative platform for marine and coastal resource management across the Coral Triangle.

I believe this is the next focal area for the CT6 and Development Partners as we continue on our journey together in an ever widening constituency of people working for a shared vision for the Coral Triangle region.

Jackie Thomas
© Jackie Thomas Enlarge

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