Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson opens Sixth Women and Environment Dialogue
17 August 2014
The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson opened the Sixth Women and Environment Dialogue in Pretoria, Gauteng. The two day dialogue takes place from 17 to 18 August, at Velmore Conference Centre, under the pertinent theme, Role of Women in Accelerating a Transition towards a green economy.
Delivering the keynote address the Deputy Minister said, “Since the advent of democracy and freedom South Africa has seen a number of women taking up leadership positions in areas previously dominated by men. One of the success stories of our democracy is that of the representation of women in political and decision-making positions.”
The National Environmental Management Act makes it clear that the vital role of women and youth in environmental management and development must be recognised and their full participation must be promoted. The 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development also recognised the importance of gender equality in all efforts to achieve environmental sustainability.
Women and the environment is one of the 12 critical areas of concern identified in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, adopted by global leaders at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. The Platform pinpointed three strategic objectives for government action on the environment. These include involving women actively in environmental decision-making at all levels, integrating their concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes, and establishing ways to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women.
Ms Cecilia Kinuthia-Njenga, the Executive Director from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) commended South Africa for organising the dialogue. “The Environment sector is supporting a host of projects around the country that impart skills to women in sectors. The South African green economy modelling report of 2013 revealed that investments of natural resource management, in particular through Working for Water type Programmes has significant potential to create jobs while enhancing environmental goods and services such as water availability and regulation,” said Kinuthia-Njenga.
The Deputy Minister highlighted that in the area of skills development, the Groen Sebenza Project had offered unemployed graduates and school-leavers the opportunity to work in 44 participating host institutions in private sector, government including public entities, NGO and academia. The project hosted 472 women of the total 800 that were targeted for placement in the Groen Sebenza.
In the area of enterprise and community development, Deputy Minister Thomson highlighted that The National Green Fund established in April 2012 has injected much needed funding into women-headed green economy projects like the Muthi Futhi project in Edakeni, near Eshowe, Uthungulu District in KwaZulu-Natal province. Here a group of rural women are pioneering the commercial production of selected indigenous traditional medicinal plants, with the sale of herbal products ensuring a fully functional and operational enterprise that provides green jobs.
A similar such initiative is the 100 percent women owned Bema Bamboo project in Mandeni, Ilembe District in KwaZulu-Natal. This project aims to produce top-quality Beema Bamboo biomass feedstock.
The sector is supporting a host of other projects around the country that promote environmental conservation, but at the same time impart skills to women in sectors such as wetland conservation and rehabilitation. These include those within the ambit of the Expanded Public Works Programme such as Working for Wetlands, Working for Water, Working for Fire, Working for Waste and the Land Care Programme.
These programmes remain a particularly highly relevant intervention in the green economy sector because they create vital opportunities for women empowerment.
However, the Deputy Minister also acknowledged that we are also aware that much more still needs to done to accelerate socio-economic transformation and implementation for women’s empowerment, particularly in the area of the Green Economy.
Since the 2005 and 2006 conferences a firm basis has been laid for the sector’s women and environment agenda. These two conferences defined clear areas of action for government, civil society and business. The 2008 conference took a step further by resolving to develop a structured Women and Environment forum for the country.
The national Women and Environment Forum established in 2010 provided a platform for women to share experiences in the environment sector representing Government spheres, private sector and organised business, civil society representatives in rural and urban environments, organised labour, and academia and research institutions. The 2012 conference focused on the reflection of 56 years of women united against unemployment, poverty and inequality.
The 2015 Women and Environment Dialogue partners and stakeholders aim to reflect and take stock on the environment sector’s gender mainstreaming progress, successes and challenges thus far and agree on the next decade priorities and opportunities beyond. This will be achieved through engaging on the following thematic areas; Commitments renewal, debates revitalization and advocacy; Policy interventions and gaps; Good practise programmes and projects implementation; Strengthen evidence base through sharing of research, information and practices.
Deputy Minister Thomson concluded by saying, “I trust that participants will have very fruitful discussions on these matters and that we will emerge from here with a clear strategy that will give impetus for greater action and progress.”
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