COP13 December 2016
For Indigenous Women, biodiversity is the cornerstone of their work, their belief systems and their basic survival. Apart from the ecological services that biodiversity provides, there is the collection and use of natural resources. Indigenous Peoples and local communities believe that, direct links with the land is fundamental, and obligation to maintain these from the core of individual and group identity.
Today, across the globe, and particularly in tropical regions rich in biodiversity, it is women who manage most of the plant resources that are used by humans for several use like medicines, food, a multitude of materials for crafts and construction, firewood and other bush products for different uses in the homes and villages. At the community level, especially in remote areas, including the small Islands, forest and mountain areas wild vegetables, and other root plants and fruits help in food security during famine, floods, conflicts or any other natural disasters. Women do all these as their knowledge is immense, and they know that the family and community’s health and well-being depends on them, protection and preservation of this knowledge is crucial for maintaining biodiversity.
“Biodiversity is the very core of our existence within our communities. You cannot say how many dollars this is worth because it is our culture and our survival. In this context biodiversity is invaluable … We value our surroundings as our identity, as who we are and our inheritance that is given to us … Our environment is many things, a classroom, a pharmacy, and a supermarket.” Ruth Lilongula, Solomon Islands (UNEP/IT, 1999, p.162)
Achieving the goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity, particularly those related to sustainable use and to benefit sharing, will require much greater attention to women’s knowledge, management and rights, and to the domestic sphere. Examples of positive steps needed include: prioritizing the conservation of plants that are important to women curators and reversing dynamics that lead to their erosion; recognizing, valuing and promoting the inter-generational transmission of women’s traditional knowledge and practices; recognizing indigenous rights systems and, within these, women’s rights to plants and land resources that sustain these plants; ensuring women’s full participation in decisions and policies that affect their plant rights and the status and welfare that they derive from plant resources; and promoting and disseminating research that enhances our knowledge of the above Patricia Howard 2003