Rome – The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today marked International Mountain Day 2022 with a high-level event at its headquarters in Rome, a series of celebrations around the world & a new study that sheds light on the issue of gender equality in mountains.
International Mountain Day, celebrated every December 11, aims to raise awareness about the importance of mountains to life & seeks to build alliances that bring positive change around the world. FAO is the lead UN agency for mountains & for organizing the Day, which was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2002.
The theme of this year’s edition is Women move mountains.
In mountainous regions, more than 50 percent of women carry out agricultural activities.
Yet, women face discrimination in some form or other in many walks of life, & mountain women are particularly at risk when men emigrate in search for work.
This means women are often the primary managers of mountain resources, as well as guardians of biodiversity, keepers of traditional knowledge, custodians of local culture & experts in traditional medicine. It also means that they face a number of additional constraints. On top of lacking access to credit, land ownership, markets, trainings & digital access, they are even more exposed to the negative impacts of the climate crisis & biodiversity loss. Women in mountain regions can also be victims of gender-based discrimination in many sociocultural environments & work sectors traditionally dominated by men.
“Gender equality is central to FAO’s mandate to achieve food security for all by raising levels of nutrition, improving agricultural productivity & natural resource management, & improving the lives of rural populations,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in his opening remarks at the ceremony in Rome. “It is time to value mountain women & strengthen our support, providing them with access to what they need, especially to science, innovation, digitalization & technology,” he added.
Andorra Foreign Minister Maria Ubach, Stella Jean, an Italian-Haitian fashion designer & Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador, & Nikki Santos, Executive Director at the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute & Mountain Partnership Goodwill Ambassador, were among those attending the event.
Among other highlights, it showcased a video & fashion show illustrating the recent collaboration between the Peruvian women’s collective Illariy Threads4Dreams & Stella Jean. For this collaboration, Stella Jean travelled to the village of Tolconi, located 4800 metres above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, to create garments using multicoloured alpaca fibre for a 2023 fashion collection & other items to be sold directly by the women online. Through this partnership – borne from an earlier collaboration between the FAO Women’s Committee & the Mountain Partnership – the women are creating new models that can fetch higher prices on international markets.
To mark this year’s edition of International Mountain Day, FAO has published a study highlighting the stories & voices of mountain women, with a focus on rural areas & mountain tourism. The publication was produced together with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat & the Feminist Hiking Collective, a member of the Mountain Partnership & the Mountain Women of the World network.
Entitled Mountain women of the world: Challenges, resilience & collective power, the study is based on in-depth interviews with 313 local mountain women in eight countries – Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Italy, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal & Tanzania.
The interviewees were engaged in a range of activities, such as farming & handicrafts, as well as working in the tourism industry as guides, porters, cooks or guesthouse managers.
The study found that women’s work is socially, politically & economically invisible in most countries. Achieving recognition for the value of their work – whether paid & unpaid – remains a challenge for many mountain women. Working women in many mountain regions also have limited access to basic health services & education.
Improving their lives requires funding & a series of policies, including granting women the right to resources & services under equal conditions as men & facilitating their access to local, national & international markets through training & priority access to loans & other financial services.
The study also offers reasons for optimism. Technologies such as the internet are allowing women to organize themselves into so-called “networks of solidarity,” & this trend was accelerated during COVID-19, with 61 percent of respondents telling researchers they had connected with other women during the pandemic.
As one mountain woman in the study is quoted as saying, “In times of challenges, people get closer, & life in the mountains is full of challenges.”
Note to editors:
The Mountain Partnership, the only UN alliance dedicated to improving the lives of mountain peoples & protecting mountain environments around the world, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Andorra & Italy are donors to the organization’s Secretariat.
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