An innovative platform to highlight the role of women leaders in protecting and sustaining the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity was launched on May 13 at the sidelines of the World Coral Reef Conference in Manado, Indonesia.
Supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA) and other development partners, the launch was one of several CTI-CFF side events scheduled around the week-long WCRC.
The new “CTI-CFF Women Leaders’ Forum” is a peer-learning network for women who are leading programs and projects that promote marine and coastal resource management. The forum also aims to help women take a more active role in preserving and sustaining the region’s unique marine and coastal resources.
During the launch, the Forum honored six women leaders from Coral Triangle countries and provided a small grant to continue and expand their activities. The honorees are:
- Marta Lotang, from Indonesia, is the leader of a local organization called CBO Cinta Persahabatan in Alor, East Nusa Tenggara that actively encourages local law enforcers to pursue cases against those who use dynamite fishing and other unsustainable fishing methods.
- Francesca Ngo Winfield, from Malaysia, is the chairperson and founder of the Kudat Turtle Conservation Society in Sabah, a local organization that advocates for community-based sea turtle conservation activities and reduction of illegal fishing activities.
- Piwen Langarap, from Papua New Guinea, is program coordinator of the Manus Environment Communities Conservation Network. She leads the development and implementation of the locally managed marine area in her community.
- Alma Bool, from the Philippines, is treasurer of the Sama Samang Nagkakaisang Pamayanan ng Silonay in Oriental Mindoro. Her organization works to increase the community’s resilience to climate change through coastal protection and income diversification through a 42-hectare protected mangrove forest in her village.
- Moira Dasipio, from the Solomon Islands, is president of the Mother’s Union in Isabel Province. She promotes community-based conservation and sustainable natural resource management in her province.
- Robela Mendes, of Timor-Leste, is leader of the Com Women’s Group in her village located inside Nino Konis Santana National Park in Timor-Leste. She leads a group engaged in alternative sources of livelihood in an effort to reduce dependence on her village’s fisheries resources.
“What you have achieved in your communities is truly inspiring. You are role models for everyone,” Alfred Nakatsuma, Regional Environment Office Director at USAID/RDMA, told the grant awardees, adding, “Women not only achieve for the present, but also lay the seeds for the next generation to do it better.”
The panel discussion with women leaders from the private sector and media stressed the need to change mindsets and learn from those women entrepreneurs who are creative and taking the lead in effective and sustainable business management. Specific communications tools, such as green community radio programs are very effective in reaching out to people in remote areas and islands throughout the Coral Triangle region.
The launch followed a 12-day peer exchange in the United States sponsored by USAID/RDMA, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Coral Triangle Center, where 13 women leaders from the Coral Triangle countries met with their counterparts in Washington, DC, and St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands to prepare an action plan to highlight women’s contributions to marine conservation.
Sponsors of the CTI-CFF Women Leaders’ Forum launch include the CTI-CFF Interim Regional Secretariat, Indonesia’s CTI-CFF National Coordinating Committee, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia, USAID, Coral Triangle Center, U.S. Department of the Interior, The Nature Conservancy, World Wide Fund for Nature, and Asian Development Bank.