Social inclusion and gender equity

Social inclusion and gender equity

Women’s empowerment is key to the sustainable management of forests and RECOFTC is mainstreaming gender perspectives in its policies and programmes.

It has been proven time and again that addressing women’s roles and needs in forestry is central to sustainable conservation, the management of forests, and enhancing rural livelihoods. In the Asia-Pacific region there are about 450 million people who rely on forests for their livelihoods. For example, more than 41% of rural households in Cambodia obtain between 20- 50% of their total livelihoods from forest use.


As the primary users of the forests in many cases, women spend substantial amounts of time gathering fuel wood (the principal source of rural domestic energy), fodder for livestock, medicinal plants and herbs, wild vegetables, fruits, fibers, and other non-wood forest products, for both their own household use, consumption and for sale.

A wide range of NTFPs are harvested and sold not just locally, but also for export. NTFPs harvested and processed predominantly by women in the Asia-Pacific are being sold in North America, Europe and Japan. It is of critical importance to empower them by providing relevant and timely information on markets, rights to forest resources and access to credit.

Though gender has received due attention with regards to issues concerning natural resources like land and water over the past two decades, in forestry, gendered dimensions have mainly highlighted women’s roles in management and conservation, leaving the core challenge of enhancing women’s socio-economic and environmental rights and benefits. 


For instance, the question, “How would forest and land tenure reform and certification influence men's and women’s rights and their relationships with, access to and control over forest resources?” still warrants wider investigation in the Asia-Pacific.


New challenges

In many parts of the world, women – resource-poor women in particular – are facing new challenges in adapting to changing roles and responsibilities in forest resource management. These challenges are mostly related to climate change, food and energy security, changing consumption patterns, demographic transition, and work related to male migration.


In this growing context, if gender inequality is still viewed as a weak link in designing policies and implementing interventions, it would adversely impact not just sustainable conservation and forest management, but the whole agenda of sustainable development and social equity, thereby resulting in conflict and injustice at large.


“It was encouraging to note the active participation and contribution of women in the discussions during REDD+ training provided by RECOFTC in coordination with local partners. Earlier most of the women used to remain silent spectators in the group meeting, but during the training program, we found them active and sharing their experiences of local level changes, such as disappearance of some grass species, sightings of new species of birds and appearance of invasive species of medicinal plants, etc.”                                                 

Ms. Durga Pandey, FECOFUN community level facilitator, Nepal

For instance, if women are excluded from planning, designing, implementing and decision making processes, benefits from forest enterprises and forest protection initiatives, such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), REDD+, and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts, are more likely to be distributed inequitably.


Additionally, if women are excluded from these processes, such schemes would not be able to take advantage of the opportunity to recognize and build on the great array of knowledge, practices, special skills and ethics that women bring as primary users of forests and managers of non-wood forest products for regeneration, conservation, and sustainability. Including women as equal and active players and decision makers in such initiatives can help achieve more equitable distribution of resources and benefits, greater gender equality and better governance.


A number of studies have already proven that denying certain groups the right to participate as well as the rights to use, manage and dispose of resources, can have negative implications on sustaining the resource base.  On the other hand, giving equal rights to all users and managers can help generate strong incentives to maintain the resources over time.


Recognizing the above, RECOFTC, along with its partners, has renewed its focus on gender issues in forestry by making it a strategic focus that cross-cuts all of the thematic areas in which we work.  Additionally, our work on gender and forestry takes place at local, provincial/sub-national, national, regional and international levels in an effectively and coherently coordinated collaboration with various stakeholders to facilitate development and implementation of gender inclusive forestry programs and policies.


Our work on gender

Our programs and projects are being streamlined with gender-responsive and rights-based approaches across all thematic areas and functions. They also adhere to RECOFTC’s core guiding principles – clear and strong rights, good governance, and fair share of benefits.


Within this framework, the following approaches are being systematically included in our activities:


Capacity development 

Men and women’s differential concerns, needs, opportunities and aspirations are being incorporated in developing and delivering capacity building products and services to update knowledge and existing best practices to meet the identified needs of key stakeholders and institutions at all levels.


Piloting, demonstrating and practicing community forestry

All pilot projects and action research on community forestry are using a gender analysis framework to maintain a balanced position in which gender disparities are acknowledged, understood, and addressed so that a fair share of benefits and clear and strong rights accrue to women.


Research and analysis

Under each thematic area, critical gender related issues, indicators and approaches are being identified with results targeting policy implementation and outcomes at all levels to enhance the resource rights of local men and women.


Learning and outreach

All of our communications related services and products analyze critical gender issues highlighting practical approaches that have been proven in our pilot sites. We also engage with media partners for knowledge dissemination and wider public outreach for gender sensitive policies and practices.