Across the globe, indigenous and rural women already make invaluable contributions to their communities while sustainably managing natural resources. They use, manage, and conserve territories that comprise over 50% of the world’s land and support up to 2.5 billion men, women and children.
About one in three people is dependent on communal land for their wellbeing and livelihoods. Yet, in most parts of the world, there is less than full participation of indigenous and rural women in decision-making, land tenure rights and equitable benefit sharing.
The fate of forests and the success of any forest-related LDN (land degradation neutrality) initiative is inextricably linked to gender issues. Women play critical roles within forests as both users and custodians: women’s knowledge and management practices sustain household economies and healthy ecosystems alike. Yet forestry is a male-dominated sector, with men making many of the key economic and policy decisions related to forests. There are persistent socio-economic, cultural and legal barriers that prevent women from fully participating in, contributing to, and benefiting from forest policy and management efforts.
To redress this imbalance and leverage women’s knowledge of how to harvest and manage forest resources sustainably, women need to have an equal say, particularly about the resources on which they most depend. Moreover, empowering women in the forestry sector can create significant development opportunities and generate important additional benefits for their households and communities, particularly in rural areas.
In India, the role of women in local forest governance and access to financial services and new technologies has been strengthened, but much more needs to be done.
To empower women in the forestry sector it is necessary to:
– advocate for good governance systems which provide secure tenure for women;
– collect disaggregated data to monitor gender roles in the sector;
– mainstream gender in capacity building activities;
– analyze the potential entry points for gender components in projects and programmes;
– and disseminate important data and facts related to gender in the forests and forestry sector.
Agencies providing technical assistance in the design and implementation of LDN projects as well as donors giving financial support should insist that projects be designed and put into practice in a way that reflects the interest and concerns of women.