Biodiversity Plan Demands Voice for Women

NAIROBI, 28 May, 2010 (CISA) –

Women provide up to 90 percent of the rural poor’s food and produce up to 80 percent of food in most developing countries, and yet they are almost completely ignored when policy decisions are made about agriculture and biodiversity.

That’s about to change, thanks to a United Nations agreement on biodiversity that will ask countries to ensure women are involved in decisions regarding biodiversity – including agriculture.

“This is a game changer and will be a milestone for other U.N. conventions such as climate change (U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change),” said Lorena Aguilar Revelo, senior gender advisor at the International Union for Conservation of Nature in Moravia, Costa Rica.

The U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Strategic Plan under final discussion here in Nairobi that sets the objectives and goals of a new international agreement on how to curb the loss of biodiversity will explicitly state that women must participate and funding will be tied to their involvement.

The Strategic Plan will set a number of specific biodiversity targets for 2020 and will be submitted to the 195 member countries for approval at a final meeting in Nagoya, Japan this October.

“Women are the protectors of agricultural biodiversity. In Peru, they grow more than 60 varieties of manioc, in Rwanda more than 600 varieties of beans,” said Revelo. “Leaving aside 50 percent of the population when we are in a biodiversity crisis has not been very smart.”

Women in developing countries have an intimate knowledge of the social and natural systems, including collecting 80 percent of the wild edibles. They save up to 90 percent of the seeds that are used in smallholder agriculture, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation.

“Women play a major role in nature, are often farmers and have a close and intimate understanding of biodiversity,” Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the CBD, told IPS.

Despite these realities women are not seen as the main players in conservation, and are not invited to meetings on biodiversity, said Revelo.

Studies have found that if women receive money for conservation, 90 percent will go to the family, while men only use 15 percent on average, she added.

Women are most likely to be impacted by declines in biodiversity – a term used to describe the diversity of living things that make up the Earth’s life support systems that provide food, fuel, clean air and water. In many communities woman are also the ones that transmit knowledge about the plants, animals and ecosystems in their region.

Even though women comprise the majority Africa’s farmers, in many places if the woman’s husband dies, the small plot of land she has grown food on to feed her family most of her life will go to her husband’s brother – not her, said Kemi Seesink, a Nigerian with Wetlands International, an NGO based in the Netherlands.

Cultural change is key, if there is any hope for stemming the biodiversity decline and improving livelihoods, Revelo said. “We need to modify unsustainable patterns. That sometimes means changes in cultures, customs and ways of living.”

When member countries of the CBD finalise a new international agreement in October, Revelo hopes that countries will give women a major role in decision making on any aspect of biodiversity at national and regional levels.” Women want to be major players and are willing to take their place,” she said.

Joji Carino of the Tebtebba Foundation, speaking for indigenous groups, says there is a far bigger problem of ensuring that the public and civil society is engaged at the national government level..

Revelo acknowledges women still have a long way to go but said, “only among equals can we all move forward.”

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Statistics on Human Trafficking around the Globe

Michael Mungai

This post deals with some shocking human trafficking statistics.

We always hear about human trafficking. Yet, somehow, it seems we’ve gone calloused and look at it as something so detached from our reality. The sad truth is that there are real people out there, people we don’t know, who are actually suffering because they are victims of human trafficking.

Victims are either taken forcibly or with consent and are forced to get into sexual acts against their own will. But the bottom line is that these people lose their human rights. Below are some facts that will help you appreciate how this problem is considered to be uncontrollable. In 2007, 27 million people are considered slaves in today’s modern society. The advent of technology does not seem to be the perfect setting for the barbaric state of slavery, but yes it is, and statistics will prove this fact. There is smuggling of people happening each year, worldwide, and it has now reached 800,000 victims.

Women and children are still the favored target of human trafficking each year. They comprise 80% of the total number of people being trafficked. 161 countries out of 192 (according to the United Nations) are involved with human trafficking. And while in bondage, there is approximatelty 30% of victims who will have an actual encounter with a health care professional but they will not have the chance to expose themselves.

There are 30,00 women in Romania declared to be missing who are pressumed to be victims of human trafficking, as international police reported.

Children comprise half or fifty percent (50%) of human trafficking target. And they become victims as early as 12 to 14 years old and they are most likely to get exposed to sexual exploitation. Human trafficking, as an organized crime, is approximated to generate 32 billion revenue each year. The industrialized countries are the main source of slaves or labor servants approximated at 15.5 million victims.

Individuals under the age 18, make up half of the total number of humans being trafficked. No matter how far the problem may seem to be from our experience, the facts stated above is the sad face of human trafficking. But the victims are afraid to divulge their situations because they fear that their families and loved ones’ safety will be compromised. Some are afraid that they will be deported. The face of human trafficking is revealed through the statistics sated above, though they are but few. But these numbers grow by the day. It will definitely bring joy if these numbers decrease, but they don’t.

It may not be that simple to end this situation because poverty or economic problems are the root cause of human trafficking. But not taking any actions will definitely put more women, men and children at risk of becoming targets; thereby, putting their lives on hold. That is why we, each one of us, should take a serious thought on taking small steps to put an end to this ruthless industry.