Enhancing Women’s Position in PNG’s Protected Area Network

    James Cook University has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme in Papua New Guinea to conduct a Gender Analysis and develop a Gender Action Plan for the Sustainable Financing of PNGs Protected Area Network. In order for women, youth and marginalised groups to become more involved as partners in protected area planning, project lead Dr Jennifer Gabriel (Adjunct Research Fellow) says that such opportunities need to value and showcase the practical local knowledge and expertise embedded in the day-to-day life of women, elders, and others whose interests is not solely aligned with the economy, or biodiversity conservation. The emphasis should be on maintaining and strengthening collaborative reciprocity and cooperation across and between families, clans, and conservation communities so they can collectively identify new strategies to move towards a better, more prosperous and sustainable future.

    Pilot Project Areas:

    1. Kimbe Bay - Locally Managed Marine Areas [LMMA]
    2. East Sepik Wetlands
    3. Bismarck Range [Mt Wilhelm National Park & Wanang Conservation Area]

    Women in focus groupWoman talking to other women

    Top down approaches to conservation began in the late seventies, with several International Non-Government Organizations promoting environmental protection through the establishment and (when possible) registration of conservation areas as Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) and Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs). Overall planning and environmental analysis and visioning for these ‘protected areas’ was usually done by the staff of the INGOs. Community groups, mostly consisting of men, were established for the implementation of the environmental protection plans. At community level, decision making was usually in the hands of management committees of elder men (including local chiefs and other established authorities), with only occasionally a few women members. Various protective activities were undertaken, but with little involvement of women or young people. Most of the funded activities related directly to environmental protection, with generally little attention for other (immediate or long term) needs and aspiration of the local communities. Many women in the pilot areas visited were conscious of the failing management of the earlier projects and felt that they as women in the communities - often already organized in groups through their church, an NGO or as local women’s council) - could manage environment conservation areas very well.

    In view of the needs of women and their role in managing the community’s resources, the project will develop a framework to pro-actively engage women in the choice, design and management of the project activities in their protected areas.  The UNDP GEF6 Project ‘Sustainable Finance of Papua New Guinea’s Protected Area Network’ has an ambitious target of 65% of the positions in committees, set up to plan and manage PAs, reserved for women and youth.

    To collect the primary data for the Gender Analysis and Gender Action Plan, Dr Gabriel has been working with each of the UNDP Project Coordinators in the pilot areas to conduct quantitative and qualitative research through focus groups, semi-structured questionnaire and interviews. To provide a baseline study, a substantive literature review on gender issues was conducted by PNG researchers Bernadine Danomira and Jeanne Tareasi, who are also assisting with the data processing from the survey research.

    Logistical challenges to plan and conduct gender research in the pilot project sites include the high cost of road and river/sea transport, as well as availability of transport when needed.  The fieldwork for Mt Wilhelm National Park was unexpectedly delayed by a week when the Prime Minister visited the province and all vehicles were booked out for the delegation. Other more unique aspects of the research include the researchers travelling in a shallow boat up the Sepik River inhabited by crocodiles. The fieldwork provided an opportunity for local communities, and particularly women to discuss their needs and aspirations, and to have a voice on matters important to them. The research insights will help to develop a framework to enhance women’s position in Papua New Guineas Protected Area Network.

    Man with traditional headdressPeople in canoe

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