Sat | Jun 15, 2019

Earth Today | Civil society supports gender equality for healthier oceans

Published:Thursday | June 13, 2019 | 12:16 AM
Executive director for CANARI, Nicole Leotaud (at right, front row) with representatives of civil society organisations in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf region, during a workshop to develop ‘People Managing Oceans’.

THE CARIBBEAN Natural Resources Institute (CANARI), as part of its observation of World Oceans Day on June 8 this year, celebrated the 28 civil society organisations and community enterprises that have committed to work collaboratively under the ‘People Managing Oceans’ programme.

The civil society action programme (CSAP) aims to contribute to the achievement of the regionally adopted long-term vision of ‘a healthy marine environment in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf region that provides benefits and livelihoods for the well-being of the people of the region. As such, among other things, it is intended to strengthen the role and benefits to women through the sound management of oceans.

This year’s theme for World Ocean’s Day was ‘Gender and the Ocean’, promoting gender equality in ocean-related activities, including fisheries and policymaking and management. It also recognised, according to the United Nations, the need for “concerted action towards gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in all ocean-related sectors to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5”.

Meanwhile, the vision of ‘People Managing Oceans’ is expressed in the 10-year Strategic Action Programme for the Sustainable Management of the Shared Living Marine Resources of the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (CLME+ SAP) and has been endorsed by the governments of 25 countries and six overseas territories across the region. Development and implementation of the CLME+ SAP and the associated CSAP is funded by the Global Environment Facility.

Included among its eight strategies and 90 specific actions is that civil society will support gender equality in the management and sustainable use of oceans. A critical action is education about the management and sustainable use of the coastal and marine environment, particularly targeting women in the fisheries and tourism sectors.

Recognising that many more women are becoming the main income contributors in their households, the programme highlights the need to promote and support women’s enterprises.

“We are seeing more women wanting to start small enterprises using natural resources, but not always having the skills and resources to keep their enterprises profitable without degrading the resource base upon which they depend,” said Nicole Leotaud, CANARI’s executive director, in a release to the media.

“Working with these women to help them identify ways to keep their enterprises profitable and their resource base healthy and productive is, therefore, important and goes a long way in terms of empowering women to break cycles of poverty,” she added.

Under ‘People Managing Oceans’, civil society will also advocate for and promote equity in value-chains and decent work for vulnerable groups, such as women.

“This action is particularly important for the fisheries sector, where the role of women in processing and marketing fish further along the value-chain is often masked by the more dominant role of men in harvesting fish,” said Melanie Andrews, technical officer at CANARI.

This ‘masking’ opens the door to an undervaluation of women’s roles, which can lead to unfair wages for their work and diminished prospects for personal development. However, Andrews noted that “through advocacy, civil society can achieve better recognition and enhancement of women’s role in the fisheries sector”.

The 28 organisations which so far have endorsed the programme are from 13 countries and include community micro-enterprises, fishing and tourism associations, conservation NGOs, and research institutes.

CANARI, the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations, Nature Caribé, CoopeSoliDar R.L and the Centre for the Conservation and Eco-Development of Samaná Bay and its Surroundings are working to encourage other civil society organisations and small and micro-enterprises in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf region to sign on to this collective movement.

“‘People Managing Oceans’ is a framework developed by civil society for civil society. It will help civil society be more strategic, better connect with national efforts, and leverage financing. Endorsing ‘People Managing Oceans’ also sends a strong message that civil society is committed to partnering with others to ensure that our oceans remain healthy and productive,” Leotaud said.