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In response to questions about how to approach this issue, San leader Victoria
Haraseb has suggested that women ought to be asked about it. 22 In other words,
the appropriate strategy for research design is to engage with the women in the
community, starting from where they are (including their consciousness), and not
where the researchers are coming from, thus avoiding the imposition of a Western
gender perspective at the outset. Such inclusion would also support those indige-
nous women who wish to resist bioprospecting research in their territories, and
incursions into their intellectual and cultural heritage, by giving them a powerful
setting in which to say 'no', if that is what they wish. 23
6.9 Conclusion
A truly just and fair sharing of benefits should make sure that women are treated
equally with men. 'Equality' here is understood as simple equality between men
and women that takes differences into account (Molyneux and Razavi 2002 ). This
requires attention to both the outcome and the process of benefit sharing. As an
outcome, just and fair benefit sharing is where women are allocated their rightful
share; as a process, it ensures that women fully participate at all levels and in all
aspects of the (often protracted) negotiation and decision-making process.
In order to achieve this, guidelines and policies on benefit sharing in research
need to be re-examined from a gender perspective. This process should be
informed by evidence about how women are being unjustly treated in current
benefit-sharing arrangements (see, for instance, Alvarez Castillo and Lucas 2009 :
141). Seeing how gender-based power imbalances can work against the implemen-
tation of guidelines and policies on the ground demonstrates the importance of
strategies, processes and mechanisms that are sensitive to power dynamics in local
In order to carry out the international will expressed above, all guidelines and
policies for benefit sharing should explicitly require women's meaningful partici-
pation in all phases of decision-making, starting (as much as possible) with the
formulation of the research design through to the signing of agreements and the
allocation of benefits with minimum, appropriate and measurable indicators. The
definition of meaningful participation should be contextualized in, but not bound
by , cultural, social, political and economic practices and relationships. This is
because these practices and relationships could be the sources of inequality and
women's exclusion, as shown in the case analysis.
In addition, guidelines and policies should include examples of the kinds of
mechanisms that will enable women to fully participate and have an effective
voice. These could, for instance, be modelled on the appendices to the Nagoya
22 Personal communication July 2008 in relation to the skills building needs of San women.
23 See NGO Forum 1995 .
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