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[Blog series] Addressing issues of gender and social inclusion in sustainable ecosystem management in Guyana (Part 4.2)

23 June 2020

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are matters of fundamental human rights and prerequisites to meeting sustainable development goals around the world. This four-part blog series outlines some of the benefits of (part 1), barriers to (part 2), and best practices and strategies to promote (part 3) gender equality in sustainable ecosystem management. This article highlights an important milestone in local stakeholder engagement in Guyana: the first ever Rupununi Indigenous Women’s Conference.

WWF-Guianas, North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) and South Central Peoples Development Association (SCPDA are local partner organisations in the programme Shared Resources, Joint Solutions (SRJS), a strategic partnership between IUCN NL, WWF NL and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This blog focuses on empowering indigenous communities to help ensure gender is thoroughly integrated in sustainable ecosystem management.

Developing a gender policy

‘An important aspect of our work is capacity building of local and national level partners,’ says Preeya Rampersaud, programme coordinator at WWF-Guianas. ‘We have focused on creating space to allow for increased participation in decision-making processes for natural resource and environmental governance.’

Ms. Immaculata Casimero of the South Rupununi District Council (SRDC) noted that these capacity building trainings, including one on lobby and advocacy skills and another on gender, have inspired action for her and other participants. ‘From the gender training, the SRDC developed a gender policy. Since then, I have seen more women being involved in the decision-making process, and we have more chances to amplify our voices.’

I have seen more women being involved in the decision-making process, and we have more chances to amplify our voices.

Jointly developed by SRDC and the South Central Peoples Development Association (SCPDA), the gender policy was the first for any Indigenous Peoples Organization in Guyana. As Rampersaud explains, ‘For a small, community-based Indigenous organization, this gender policy represents a valuable milestone.’   

First ever Indigenous Women’s Conference

Another significant milestone in local stakeholder engagement in Guyana was the first ever Rupununi Indigenous Women’s Conference in January 2020. The conference was organized by the SCPDA and the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB), with support from WWF-Guianas, IUCN and Conservation International Guyana.

‘The conference responded to a need identified by indigenous women involved in SRJS to strengthen opportunities for leadership in environmental decision making and build capacity and skills related to advocacy and public speaking,’ says Rampersaud.

More than seventy Indigenous women participated in the conference. Ms. Jackie Allicock, Senior Councillor for Surama Village and Chairperson for NRDDB, stated: ‘I really appreciate the turn out to the conference. I have seen the interest from women in the different communities and organisations represented here. This conference was a good start for us as women since we are being empowered. I would like to see women take up these opportunities that are coming our way and don’t let it go.’

indigenous_women_and_conservation_views_from_immaculata_casimero_aishalton_village_guyana

Immaculata Casimero of the South Rupununi District Council reflects on the discussions and shares a call for collective action.

Common path forward

The conference concluded with participants developing the Bina Hill Declaration, which reviews the experiences and lessons from the conference, amplifies the voices of indigenous women across the Rupununi, and includes a call to action to village leaders, regional authorities and policy-makers on what they need to do to support and champion indigenous women in environmental protection. With this Declaration, the women committed to a common path forward on strengthening engagement and leadership in establishing a green future for the communities and indigenous women in the Rupununi.

The women committed to a common path forward on strengthening engagement and leadership in establishing a green future for the communities and indigenous women in the Rupununi.

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