In photos: Women of Seychelles lead efforts towards healthy oceans
Date: 05 June 2017
The health of our oceans is declining. This threatens the lives, livelihood and food security of billions of people. For island communities and those living around oceans and seas, the risk are even greater. Recently, UN Women visited the island nation of Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean Rim region, where ocean-based tourism is the backbone of the economy and men and women rely on the ocean for sustainable living. Women are also leading marine conservation and sustainable use of the ocean in Seychelles. This photo essay provides a glimpse into their efforts and impact.
The Indian Ocean Rim region is home to about 2 billion people living across 21 countries surrounding the Indian Ocean—Australia, Bangladesh, Comoros, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, UAE and Yemen. The diverse region surrounds the Indian Ocean, which for many serves as a lifeline of international trade and transport.
The women of this region are not a homogenous group—they are workers, entrepreneurs, mothers, daughters, caregivers and receivers of care. The health of the ocean has direct impact on the way women live and work in the Seychelles, and their efforts and leadership in sustainable use and conservation of the ocean is critical.
Sylvanna Antat, Marine Research Officer with the Seychelles National Parks Authority, plays a leading role in mapping coral reefs in the waters around Mahe Island in Seychelles. The health of the coral reefs is important both ecologically and economically, as reefs are important for biodiversity, and they provide protection from coastal erosion and help mitigate storm damage.
Across the world, women’s leadership in conservation efforts is often invisible. In Seychelles, women spearhead sustainable practices and work to find practical solutions to counter the negative impacts of climate change and degradation of ocean environments.
Michelle Martin is Executive Director of Sustainability for Seychelles (S4S), an NGO working on sustainable living, conservation, research and education in Seychelles. In addition to a number of projects, S4S, with a grant from UNDP’s Small Grants Programme, recently worked to help set up community-based organizations to address the increasing amount of solid waste going to landfill in Seychelles.
Huge numbers of plastic bags end up in the ocean, causing massive pollution and endangering marine life, as well as jeopardizing the tourism industry. This hampers sustainable development in small island states like Seychelles. In recent efforts, women played a key role in in banning plastic bags across the country.
“Women are leading environmental sustainability in Seychelles, as are youth,” says Karine Rassool, Senior Economist for the Seychelles Fishing Authority. Rasool is an Environmental Economist by training and was a leading voice of the successful youth-led efforts to ban plastic bags in Seychelles. The Seychelles government has banned the importation of plastic bags and Styrofoam containers to the island as of January 2017 and businesses are required to phase out the use of plastic bags by July 2017.
Mana Celestine (left) sells bananas, coconuts, papaya, chillis and soursop in the market in Victoria with the help of her granddaughter Anel. “Since I was little I have been coming to this market [to sell] with my father and now I’m here with my grandson and granddaughter.” Celestine supports the ban on plastic bags in Seychelles. “For about 15 years I have not used any plastic bags. I made up my mind. I looked around and said why is all this plastic wasted?”
In many parts of the world, women are often excluded from employment in traditionally male-dominated fisheries and fishing industries due to entrenched social norms and unfair employment policies. But some coastal countries, such as the Seychelles, have seen increase of women in the fisheries sector, both on the fishing boats and in the labs.
Julie Matatiken works in the Port of Victoria in the Seychelles as a Senior Laboratory Technician at Socomep, a woman-run fisheries quality and quantity control company. Matatiken performs histamine, salt and organoleptic analysis on tuna fish coming into the port.
Evidence from around the world shows that including women in environmental conservation leads to better outcomes. Our oceans and our future cannot be sustainable without women. As world leaders come together to implement the Sustainable Development Goals, including SDG 14, which calls for action to conserve our oceans, strategies for marine conservation and sustainable use of oceans must include women’s voices, experiences and participation.
Christel Jacques, 55, leads her Wildlife Club of 8-year-old children on an outing to learn about mangroves. The Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles are school-based clubs where 90 per cent of the club leaders are women. Jacques, who has received a national award for her work with the clubs, aims to “sensitize pupils to be friendly to the environment and how to become a responsible citizen, so that we could have a sustainable Seychelles.”
All Photos: UN Women/Ryan Brown
UN Women visited Seychelles as part of a collaboration with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), which is working to boost sustainable use of the sea and its resources for sustainable economic development. The Association recognizes the empowerment of women and girls is integral to unlocking the potential of the region. In partnership with IORA, UN Women recently produced the “Enabling women’s contributions to the Indian Ocean Rim economies,” report, funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The report recommends key actionable interventions to move the needle on women’s economic empowerment—in the region.