It’s wonderful to be here among so many extraordinary women leaders in this space. Thank you to Marie-Noelle and Wista France for hosting this important discussion.
Our panelists are leaders and tremendous examples of how women are catalysts for ocean solutions – women – we get the job done.
U.S. Gender Strategy
The Biden-Harris Administration prioritizes gender equity and equality at the highest levels, as evidenced by the release of our first-ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality in October 2021.
As part of that, we must promote women and girls’ leadership roles in our efforts to promote healthy oceans, and that if we do, we will see better results.
From ocean plastic pollution to sustainable fisheries to ocean conservation, women play a significant role in the health of our oceans. And they do it all over the world.
Let’s look closely at HOW.
Gender, Solid Waste Management and Ocean Plastic Pollution
Let’s start with ocean plastics pollution – According to the UN Environment Program (UNEP), plastic waste accounts for at least 85 percent of total marine waste.
And globally, women often dominate the workforce in the informal waste sector.
In many countries they make up well over half the workers in this field — as waste collectors or junk shop owners – they are quietly creating the circular economy in their communities. Of course, women always clean up!
Thus, in so many parts of the world, women are key to keeping plastic waste out of the environment and reducing its discharge to the ocean.
Gender and Fisheries
Women also play a significant role in the fisheries sector, throughout the entire supply chain. They often fill the majority of the “behind the scenes” jobs in fish processing.
Women possess critical knowledge about local fish stocks, they are often the first to notice when ecosystem changes occur in traditional and artisanal fisheries.
But too often, these contributions are invisible.
Because compared to their participation in the fisheries sector at-large, women are severely underrepresented across government and corporate leadership positions.
There are some bright spots, however. At the community level, women are increasingly creating spaces for themselves.
Like in the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, where local groups created a women’s fishing cooperative to improve their employment opportunities and to provide for local food security.
These are just two examples, but today we will learn about so many more. The bottom line is that empowering women is not just good for women and girls — its the smart thing to do.
We know there is a strong correlation between women in leadership and environmental success. Countries with women leaders are much more likely to have tough environmental standards and meet their ambitious climate commitments than those who don’t. We can see that impact looking around this meeting today.
Events like this do so much more than bring us together – they inspire more women and girls to work in this critical space. Together, I hope that we’ll do more to harness the power of their contributions to healthy oceans!