06.08.2012 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Empowering women and preserving biodiversity in Sao Tome and Principe

© UNESCO/Pierre Gaillard

In the district of Lobata in Sao Tome and Principe, an integrated and participative programme contributes to women’s empowerment, to the preservation of biodiversity and to better livelihoods.

Sao Tome and Principe is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, where over half of the population live on less than two dollars a day.

The ecosystem of the islands is endangered by human practices such as collecting turtle eggs, using turtle meat for local consumption, trading shells for crafts, using trees for firewood and charcoal, as well as bird hunting. These practices all have a negative impact on the preservation of biodiversity.

Targeting female ‘leaders’

The initiative of Lobata aims to improve women’s lives through the practice of income-generating activities but also to acquire skills in various fields such as literacy, the processing of agricultural products, seafood, fashion, design, environmental protection etc.

Since 2009, 300 female ‘leaders’ aged 15 to 35 years organized into 12 community groups overseen by Madame Helena Bonfim, Program Coordinator at the Ministry of Education.

The women learn about the various aspects of turtle’s conservation and other environmental subjects emphasizing the need of protecting turtles, birds and the forest to preserve the biodiversity on the islands.

The Lobata project is the result of a partnership between the Government, NGOs, community-based organizations and UNESCO Libreville.

Growing self confidence

To further support and motivate the women, the Ministry of Education has started a school feeding program based on local seafood products. The Ministry also provides school uniforms produced by community groups. Such initiatives result in greater self confidence among women as well as new competences.

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