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Rights for women mean care for Mother Earth

Poaching levels of five endangered mammals - including the snow leopard and white-clouded bear – have been at perilously high levels in the Tien Shan mountains.

Yet by empowering women, an action in Kyrgyzstan shows how vital natural resources can be better managed as a result. A training and micro-credit scheme have enabled women to purchase equipment such as cameras and binoculars and become mountain rangers.


By discouraging men from hunting endangered species, poaching levels have dropped significantly as a result. Women’s rights and natural resource management do indeed go hand-in-hand, an alliance of countries, civil society groups and gender experts agreed in a declaration issued in Austria last month.


Measures should be taken at regional, national and local levels to improve women’s access to jobs and their representation in relevant fora, the alliance agreed at a declaration issued at the ‘role of women in mountain regions’ conference organised by UN Environment and partners on 18-19 April.


“Women are vital to the protection of mountain ecosystems,” said UN Environment Head Erik Solheim in a video message to participants at the taking place at the event in Alpbach.  


“Yet they are also very vulnerable,” Mr Solheim stressed. “They lack access to education and resources and are victims of discrimination and political exclusion. Women need to be at the centre of political strategies to protect mountain ecosystems and communities, to ensure a better life for them and a healthier planet for us all,” he underlined.


“As mountain populations dwindle, in order to protect the environment we need to support women, as they are more likely to stay in rural areas rather than move to the city” stressed Austrian Environment Minister Andrä Rupprechter.


Greater financial resources should be made available to cover children’s day care that frees up women’s time for activities such as work, the declaration states, while greater support should also be in place for men to also fulfil their family and caring responsibilities.


Emerging markets for high-value products such as amaranth and quinoa or even standard ones like vegetables and flowers can offer opportunities for salaried work for women, the document recognises.


Universities and schools should meanwhile teach about women’s multiple roles in mountain areas, it argues, while greater research on the topic should be carried out and contribute to increasing women and girl’s perspectives and scope of action.


With the right encouragement and funding, women’s contribution to environmental protection can be huge. In turn, greater ownership of natural resources by women can improve their economic and political situation. 


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