Christina Samwaroo, Founder of the Breadfruit Collective
Natalia Jiménez, Lawyer and Environmental Peacebuilder
Shilpa Vasavada, Gender and Natural Resources Livelihood Professional
Maria Pena, Project Officer with UWI-CERMES
Iryna Tytarchuk, Executive Director at Investment and Trade Facilitation Centre (ITFC)
Leisa Perch, CEO and Founder of SAEDI Consulting, moderated the discussion and provided an overview of the topic to begin the webinar. Nozipho Ndiweni, Founder of No-Line Communications, welcomed participants and introduced the panellists to our guests. Participants engaged in meaningful discussion following the panellists’ presentations, diving deeper into the stories shared and lessons learned.
Our panelists shared a number of examples of powerful stories of women in natural resources, highlighting some key issues:
1. Managing Natural Resources is a Gender Issue
Christina Samwaroo, Founder of the Breadfruit collective, shared with us experiences from her home country of Guyana. She began our discussion noting how in conversations of natural resources, it is most often the human element - and in particular the role of women, that gets left out. In Guyana, there is a high level of Gender Based Violence (GVB). Increasing stress from climate change makes the situation for women who are already experiencing violence more common.
Christina Samwaroo, Breadfruit Collective Founder, Photo provided by Christina Samwaroo
“While linkages between GBV and environmental issues are complex and multi-layered, these threats to human rights and healthy ecosystems are clear.” “Research findings demonstrate that ending GBV, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment can positively contribute to securing a safe, sustainable and equitable future”.
Natalia Jiménez, Lawyer and Environmental Peacebuilder has been working on encouraging other women to actively get involved in environmental peacebuilding. In Colombia, where she’s from, despite having a decentralized environmental system, the decisions that are made very rarely are reflective of the needs of the society. She advocates for more women to get involved at a local level to work for solutions outside of the traditional legal system while at the same time needing to reconcile their normative differences in terms of their roles and responsibilities to act.
Women in Colombia, Photo provided by Natalia Jiménez
2. In a patriarchal society, gender bias can be an invisible barrier held by women and not just men
As touched on by Natalia Jiménez, one of the first steps for getting women involved in fighting climate change is breaking past the normative barriers and stereotypes they have been conditioned to hold.
Shilpa Vasavada, a professional in the Gender and Natural Resource Based Livelihoods space, based in India and with over 30 years of experience, shared her experience working with women on land rights through an organization she founded. Shilpa noted that in India, where an estimated 10-20% of women holding land ownership titles, one of the first barriers they face is overcoming some of the beliefs among women themselves, often thinking that they are not deserving of equal access to land and indirectly, or the ability to create profitable and sustained livelihoods for themselves and their families.
In a country where women struggle to own land, being conditioned and socialised from the patriarchal lens creates an initial and somewhat invisible barrier to taking the first step in moving towards greater equality in terms of rights to land ownership. Her work is laying the foundation towards greater awareness of this issue while at the same time, connecting women with community based paralegal workers to start to cultivate a more equitable land-rights system.
Photo provided by Shilpa Vasavada
3. With the right supports and tools, women can make incredible strides in Natural Resources Management
Maria Pena is a Project Officer with UWI-CERMES, working with the Gender in Fisheries Team, a diverse partnership across 17 countries in the Caribbean finding different ways to support women in small-scale fisheries. Their work includes: capacity building efforts, organizational strengthening, collective action for empowerment, livelihoods analysis and fisheries value chain research. One of the groups they were with is The Central Fish Processors Association (CFPA). This collective was mobilized in response to inadequate working conditions in the postharvest segment of the fisheries value chain. The CFPA, consisting of predominantly women and with female leadership since inception is now recognized as ‘a driving force at the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex’ and has given a voice to its members to bring forward issues to management, and has helped lobby and win for improved working conditions with better amenities and facilities for workers at the Fisheries Complex. The organization also serves as a platform to encourage women to earn their livelihoods in a traditionally male dominated sector.
Women working in the Bridgetown Fisheries Complex, Photo by Maria Pena
Another example of women making strides in Natural Resources Management came from our final speaker of the day, Iryna Tytarchuk whose work is deeply rooted in economic empowerment as the Executive Director of Ukraine Investment & Trade Facilitation Centre (ITFC), Co-owner of the Women IN Platform, a Trainer of the Target Gender Equality Program of the Global Compact Network Ukraine and Co-owner of the ‘White Farm’ Company.
Women IN, where Iryna is a co-owner, is a platform providing practical tools for the development of women’s entrepreneurship. It focuses on the implementation of Diversity & Inclusion principles, support of women’s role in the economy and helping women to scale up their activities through partnerships and cooperation. One of the partnerships is Women Biz Days, a project of ITFC in cooperation with the USAID’s Competitive Economy Program. This program is directly tackling some of the assumptions and stereotypes that initially hold women back from achieving their full potential as entrepreneurs. Statements like ‘Business is not for women’, or ‘Men make the best entrepreneurs’ are addressed and overcome to help women move forward in their entrepreneurial goals. To date, they have conducted 14 business seminars, supported 346 participants and welcomed 30+ speakers to the program including foreign and senior officials. The program has helped many female entrepreneurs overcome these normative assumptions to achieve new levels of success in their businesses.
Women IN Biz Days Particpants, Photo provided by Iryna Tytarchuk.
To hear more from our panelists, you can see their full presentations on our website.
We greatly appreciate all of our panelists for taking the time to share with us their Powerful Stories of Women and Natural Resources and also want to thank our participants for lending their thoughtful questions and comments to the discussion.
We urge you to continue to join us on our webinars where we gather with women leaders to discuss new ideas on topical issues. We also want to have male allies and men working on gender equality join the conversation too!
Around these virtual conversations, we explore the factors that drive, spur, include and deter women's leadership as well as what more is needed to reach the goal of inclusive and just societies.
This series is intended for anyone who is interested in Gender and Environment and issues of Women's Leadership.