Training Symposium on Peace and Gender in Biodiversity Conservation

Report on Symposium of Peace and Gender in Biodiversity ConservationHeld at Curtin University of Technology, Miri, Sarawak By Lim Yee Ling, Water Watch Penang    

A Symposium of Peace and Gender in Biodiversity Conservation has been jointly held by Malaysian Environment NGOs (MENGO), Malaysia and The Centre for Advanced Studies in Australia, Asia and Pacific, (CASAAP) – Curtin University of Technology, Australia. The aim of this symposium is to contribute to sustainability through biodiversity conservation policy and application in Malaysia. This symposium provides a platform for people from different expertise and research to contribute ideas and thoughts to the development processes and tools for application within both male and female spheres of values and practice. The mainstreaming of the roles of both genders and application of ecology with peace will provide key strengthening of biodiversity conservation and sustainability in both Malaysian and Australian contexts. The objective of this event was for MENGO to share the best practices of gender mainstreaming in environmental management in Malaysia on a regional platform and to gain further expertise relevant to mainstreaming gender and peace ecology from key researcher. The event flows with the themes of cross-cultural study of mainstreaming gender in environmental management and creating peaceful ecologies.

The symposium was facilitated by Prof Janette Hartz-Karp from Curtin University in Australia. Prof Janette did a wonderful job in keeping the burning energy of all participants though out the day. The symposium starts of with a gentle traditional dance by BRIMAS and a welcoming speech and the purpose of the symposium by Prof Joan Gribble the deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor of Curtin University Miri. Prof Joan was very concern on the issue of poverty in women community, their education and violent against women. Among challenges stated for the new generation is the growth of world population, of which, over usages of resources and over production of waste will occur. The global disturbance that brings about unwanted natural disaster such as global warming and flood and also the policies by the political world against the natural world will be a great challenge. Also stated by Prof Joan is the attitude of the people today that work for their material satisfactions. The knowledge and technology that is acquired today should be put for better use; “action is to be taken now if not yesterday” was one of the quotes made by Prof Joan.The first speaker of the day was Dr Sundari Ramakrishna, Coordinator of MENGO.

The title presented was biodiversity management through the eyes of local communities and indigenous peoples. The three main aspects that was stress on her presentation were gender, biodiversity and indigenous people. Dr Sundari start of her talk by launching a guided book named First Steps which is a toolkit towards mainstreaming gender in biodiversity management in Malaysia. She then continue on with the requirement for long term sustainability which involve the roles of the local autonomy, the social capital,  the presence of well-defined-boundaries, continuous monitoring and sanctions by the community and the external support and assistance by the NGOs. The symposium continues with the speech by Dr Angela Wardell-Johnson from CASAAP, Curtin Perth. Dr Angela gives an overview of biodiversity of which understanding on every aspect of the biodiversity is vital and it is the basis for human survival and development. Biodiversity is not merely ecological system but a broader view includes social and cultural system. Such understanding will help us to interpret the influences and constraints on doing good work in biodiversity conservation. She then shared her experience on the actions and practice done in Australia for biodiversity conservation.The first session of the symposium was rap up by the last speaker Dr Ratna Malar Selvaratnam from The Peace Café. Dr Ratna detailed the definition of gender and its difference between sex of which people usually confuse. Gender as stated can be change and learned overtime based on society expectation. It also vary based on culture and within culture of one’s growing environment. The awareness of such put constrain on the human capacity based on their gender. However appreciating such traits and value will effectively benefits the effort of biodiversity conservation. It will bring about a better resource management practice that may contribute to peace and stability of the biodiversity.The second session of the presentation was the sharing of case studied by Adrian Lasimbang from JOAS, Dr Aileen Hoath from RUSSIC, Curtin, Ms Hellen Empaing from BRIMAS, Dr Kalithasan Kalithasam from GEC and Ms Megeswari from CAP. The first three speaker shared their experience and studies done in the rural area of which gender mainstreaming has become a very obvious concern either it is from rural area of Indonesia or locally in Malaysia. They all shared a common concern that is male domination in their society.

The discrimination and norm of the society has been such since the age of our ancestors that bring about the stereotypes and bias condition in decision making agenda. Dr Aileen also shared the influence of practice, knowledge and symbolic activity by the indigenous people in biodiversity conservation. Dr Kalithasam on the other hand shared the experience in urban society for his project of rehabilitation Kelana Jaya Lake at which is similar condition of gender mainstreaming is seen. Ms Mageswari who is promoting gender mainstreaming in Sustainable Agriculture encounter similar account that society often fail to recognize the contribution and knowledge of women involvement in agriculture.A small group discussion is the followed after every session to review on the presentation shared, to discuss and to raise questions to the respective panel and also to share our concern and ideas. The discussion method used was called world café which is a very effective way of generating new idea, sharing of experience in a very relaxing but productive way. The feedback from the first session was the efforts that need to be done for collective agreement within the community, the identification of the strength in each gender accordingly the project’s aim, to find a common value within gender and also the different understanding of gender in both rural and urban society. Feedbacks from the second session on the other hand are the needs of equal participation of women as participation of both genders will supplement one another. Project organizer may use symbolic and soft approached to gain supported of the community and policies must also be review often. Another approach to educate and talk to the male community may also be taken to enlighten them on the importance of female participation.  After our lunch break, another world café session was held to discuss the key element of good practice, the difficulties of implementing them and ways to promote and support good practice.

Together we have agreed that unity, participations and commitment by all community is important to build up the sense of ownership and collective idea that bring about good practice. The awareness of long term sustainability on the benefit and impact comes second. The undeniable difficulties faced is the leadership either it is senses of responsibility by the leaders or the support from the political leaders. To promote and support good practice on the other hand require knowledge sharing from all the communities. This activity then ended the first day of our fruitful workshop.The second day of the symposium started with the identification of issue of which that is important to each individual through open space activity. Participant sharing the same concern is the grouped together to discuss the solution of which is appropriate to address the problem faced. The issue raised range from political will in biodiversity conservation, generation gap and approach used, issues by the indigenous people to promoting the leadership and confident in women community. My group was working on the issue of improving and encouraging women’s full participation in decision making and projects. We have identity the discouraging factors that cause the lack of participation from women such as inappropriate meeting time and also the encouraging factors or strategies to address this issue such as confident building activities and the concept of micro-credit. A full report was prepared and presented to the rest of the participants. The symposium is then continue with the submission of brief project by all participants on projects that they are working on or intended to work on. Finally, the symposium was officially ended with the sharing of thoughts and lesson learned by all participant throughout the two day symposium. It has been a wonderful journey for me to learn and hear so much from people of different expertise. To gain first hand information of the problem faced by them, and together everyone brainstorm to find solutions. It has been such a fruitful experience to me and I believe to all participants as well. All participants here well recognized the importance of gender equality and indigenous people that all have come together to address this issue.