July 16, 2024
Gender specialists unlock gender-responsive aquatic biodiversity and environmental management for Africa
– By Godswill Odiong

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African women and men have set the pace for environmentally responsible and inclusive conservation of aquatic biodiversity. To validate important concerns and strategies to enhance women’s engagement in aquatic biodiversity and environmental management, the inaugural gender expert meeting on ” Gender mainstreaming in aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management” was held from October 5-7, 2022, in Naivasha, Kenya. The meeting was part of AU-IBAR’s Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity in the Africa Blue Economy Project, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Dr. Daniel Mungai, representing Kenya’s Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Blue Economy Minister, opened the gathering. He emphasised women’s involvement in food production and environmental conservation. He also noted low policy implementation in aquatic ecosystem conservation and environmental management and asked for appropriate policy frameworks to boost women’s engagement in aquatic biodiversity conservation.
Mrs. Patricia Lumba, speaking on behalf of AU-IBAR’s Executive Acting Director, Dr. Nick. Nwankpa, called for the required policy frameworks for the Blue Economy and the necessity of gender mainstreaming in policies. In addition, she highlighted on the need to acknowledge women’s participation in aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management (e.g. research, preservation, conservation, restoration). See the complete opening address.
Dr. Bernice McLean, AUDA-NEPAD’s Blue Economy Program Lead, said it is important to provide women and youth equal participation in decision-making. She said it is crucial to look into how both informal and formal sector women deal with the AfCTA execution and regional integration. She urged for capacity development and mentorship programmes to help women and youth break career development hurdles.

The Head of Regional Development Cooperation in Africa at the Swedish Embassy to the African Union, Dr Senait Regassa in her address, referred to the adoption of a feminist policy by the Swedish government for peace, development and prosperity in its development initiatives. She added that the Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity Project is part of operationalising the Africa Blue Economy Strategy and ensuring its gender responsiveness. She urged all participants to contribute actively in the workshop activities to achieve the planned objectives.

This first-of-its-kind event gave gender specialists a chance to hear presentations, discuss pressing issues related to women’s participation in aquatic biodiversity and environmental management, and verify top priorities for empowering women to play increasingly important roles in conservation efforts. Presentations and discussions focused on practical aspects of the issue, such as (i) setting the scene for the meeting by introducing the PFRS and providing background on the Conserving Aquatic Biodiversity Project; (ii) several technical presentations on “Gender Mainstreaming in Aquatic Biodiversity and Environmental Management- How, Why, and When?” and, (iii) country presentations on gender mainstreaming in aquatic biodiversity and environmental management.

The meeting was supplemented with group discussions aimed at identifying additional priority topics and activities that will increase the role of women in aquatic biodiversity and environmental management in AU member states. The most important measures include, capacity building and empowerment to improve women’s equal access to resources and enhance gender mainstreaming within institutions of environmental management.
• Communication and stakeholder engagement, including the establishment of a gender working group on aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management to promote gender-responsive communication strategies and to design instruments for private sector involvement in supporting gender inclusivity in aquatic biodiversity conservation and environmental management.
• Incorporation of gender-responsive international protocols/policies into national law and institutional strengthening to appropriate resources for policy adaptation and execution.
• Promoting gender-sensitive methods to research and innovation, as well as involving women in research and innovation.
• Value addition to extractive aquatic resources to mitigate post-harvest losses.
In the next months, the meeting’s conclusions will contribute to the process of drafting a continent-wide strategy on gender inclusion in aquatic biodiversity and environmental management, which will be prepared and validated by experts and stakeholders across the continent.

At the meeting, a total of 28 stakeholders representing African Union member states, which include Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, and Algeria, as well as representatives from regional sea conventions such as the Abidjan Convention and Regional Economic Communities, represented by the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), as well as representatives from non-state actors such as the African Marine Environment Sustainability Initiative (AFMESI), the African Women Fish Processors and Traders Network (AWFISHNET), and the Zanzibar Seaweed Cluster Initiative, participated.


In the next months, the meeting’s conclusions will contribute to the process of drafting a continent-wide strategy on gender inclusion in aquatic biodiversity and environmental management, which will be prepared and validated by experts and stakeholders across the continent.

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