Coral Triangle Countries Highlight Women Leadership in Marine Conservation

The Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security Women Leaders' Forum was held on 13 May 2014 during the World Coral Reef Conference in Manado, Indonesia. Photo: Coral Triangle Initiative Southeast Asia.

MANADO, INDONESIA - The six countries of the Coral Triangle Region – Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste – launched an innovative platform to highlight the role of women leaders in protecting and sustaining the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity.

The launch was held in conjunction with the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) Special Senior Officials Meeting, 5th Ministerial Meeting and the World Coral Reef Conference in Manado, Indonesia.

Dubbed the “CTI-CFF Women Leaders’ Forum,” the platform is envisioned to function as a peer-learning network for women who are playing key leadership roles and  leading programs and projects that promote marine and coastal resource management.  It is also a platform to build the capacity of women from the Coral Triangle so that they can take a more active role in preserving and sustaining the region’s unique marine and coastal resources.

In a statement read on her behalf during the launch, H.E. Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection Indonesia, noted the important contribution of women as they participate actively in many aspects of marine and fisheries management and activities, especially in marine and coastal resources conservation, fisheries post-harvest and trading activities.

“It is very encouraging to see that the CTI-CFF has reaffirmed the importance of recognizing the role of women as integral to its activities in managing, protecting and sustaining the coastal and marine resources of the Coral Triangle. Through this recognition, the Coral Triangle countries will be able to help push for a more equitable resource management and development especially for the 130 million people living in coastal areas who are directly dependent on the Coral Triangle’s rich resources,” Minister Gumelar said.

She said that the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection in Indonesia will work with the CTI-CFF in its activities to “further assist the women leaders who are laboring hard to manage, protect and sustain our coastal and marine areas as it is aligned with the Ministry’s aim to support the improvement of quality of life and the role of women in development.”

During the launch, six women leaders from the Coral Triangle countries were honored and given a small grant to continue and expand their activities. These women leaders includes Marta Lotang from Indonesia, Francesca Ngo Winfield from Malaysia, Piwen Langarap from Papua New Guinea, Alma Bool from the Philippines, Moira Dasipio from the Solomon Islands and Robela Mendes from Timor-Leste.

  • Ms. Lotang is the Leader of a local organization called CBO Cinta Persahabatan in Alor, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. She first set up the organization with 12 other women in 2004 and it has since grown to more than 100 women and men members in 2014. Under her leadership, the group leads awareness raising activities among fishermen to protect coral reefs and encourages local law enforcers to pursue cases against those who use dynamite fishing and other unsustainable fishing methods.
  • Ms. Winfield is the Chairperson and Founder of the Kudat Turtle Conservation Society (KTCS) in Sabah, Malaysia. Ms. Winfield has shown an exemplary determination to establish a platform where members of the local public can voice their concerns and take action to address these. Her passion for turtles and protection of their habitats has been her main drive to reach out to local leaders to improve and put in place sustainable development for Kudat that will ensure the protection of its environment.
  • Ms. Langarap is the Program Coordinator of the Manus Environment Communities Conservation Network in Manus Province, Papua New Guinea. Ms. Langarap utilizes her skills and knowledge to facilitate the locally managed marine area in her community.
  • Ms. Bool is the Treasurer of the Sama Samang Nagkakaisang Pamayanan ng Silonay, a people’s organization from Calapan, Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines. Her organization works to increase the community’s resilience to climate change and its impacts through coastal protection and income diversification. Ms. Bool has been actively involved in the community-based rehabilitation of a 42-hectare protected mangrove forest in her village.
  • Ms. Dasipio is the President of the Mother’s Union in Isabel Province in the Solomon Islands. In the last three years, she has led the planning, development and implementation of the Isabel Ridges to Reef Conservation Plan.  When plan was finalized, Ms. Dasipio worked with a team of community facilitators to educate her province-mates about the importance of resilient communities and their environment. This awareness has created a huge ground swell of interest in community based conservation and sustainable natural resource management that 10 other communities have expressed interest to replicate the plan in their own areas.
  • Ms. Mendes is the Leader of the Com Women’s Group in her village located inside Nino Konis Santana National Park in Timor-Leste. In the course of the work to establish a marine protected area in her village, Ms. Mendes and her peers found out that they could contribute to managing their marine resources by engaging in other sources of livelihood such as traditional weaving, running guest houses for tourists, and vegetable farming.

Coral Triangle Executive Director Rili Djohani, one of the main organizers of the activity, noted the significance of showcasing the impact of women leaders in managing the Coral Triangle’s marine and coastal resources. “Women leaders, especially at the community level have been actively engaged in marine resource conservation but their efforts are not always recognized. By highlighting these activities, we hope to inspire more women to take leadership roles in managing and protecting our marine resources and at the same time learn from each other’s experiences on how to expand their projects,”she said.

The Forum has several planned activities for the coming year including learning exchanges, a leadership forum and an activity to engage women local government executives to support policies that promote marine conservation in their localities.

The launch was held following a 12-day, multi-faceted peer exchange in the United States sponsored by USAID and US Department of Interior in which 13 women leaders from the Coral Triangle countries met with and learn from their counterparts in Washington, DC and St. Croix, and participated in a targeted leadership training that resulted in a 12-month action plan in region for highlighting women’s contributions to marine conservation.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is supporting the small grants for the awardees from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Each grant is equivalent to $3,000 and will be used by the grassroots women leaders for public awareness activities that will be carried out between June and December 2014.

The CTI-CFF Women Leaders’ Forum launch was hosted by the CTI-CFF Interim Regional Secretariat, Indonesia CTI-CFF National Coordinating Committee, Ministry of Marine Affairs Indonesia, USAID, the Coral Triangle Center, the U.S. Department of Interior, The Nature Conservancy, WWF and ADB.