As we said in our last bulletin “the winds of change blow with increasing strength”. One of such winds was felt at the meeting of the “Network for Women in Natural Resources Management”, held during the last World Forestry Congress (WFC) in Quebec last September. For the first time in this kind of event a group of women with a diversity of interests gathered together to share their views on gender issues.
Personal interest on women’s issues and networking, the urgency to bring gender and equity agenda to the WFC, design projects with focus on women’s causes and to see an equity agenda in forestry, among others were some of the issues expressed by the participants as the main interest to be part of the group. It was pointed out that in forestry organizations all over the world, women are marginalized, fact that is also reflected in the organization of the WFC.
Interest for this Network to include women as professionals, women as foresters and women as forest users was discussed. There was an agreement that the Network could serve as a large umbrella under which these and more specific interest groups could be formed and that it should remain as inclusive as possible.
The following statement was read at the Open Forum and presented to the Policy and Drafting Committees of the WFC so as to ensure women voices were heard in a formal manner:
“We are deeply concerned with the neglect of gender issues formally addressed within the international forest community in general and in this WFC in particular. Though references to women's roles and gender issues have surfaced in some plenary statements, theme sessions, side events and ecoregional roundtable discussions, they have not been sufficiently incorporated into the summary statements, and are still ad hoc contributions to the WFC. We were particularly disappointed that Women were not recognised as a stakeholder group during the plenary session as others for youth, indigenous peoples, forest communities, workers and industries. This is not in keeping with FAO’s commitments to the Sustainable and Agricultural Rural Development (SARD) Initiative of the Summit on Sustainable Development that recognises women as one of the 9 Major Groups.
We propose that the 13th WFC have gender issues integrated and considered in all aspects related to decision making, programs, participant selection and support, etc.
We propose that we, the women and men participants of this side event and others sharing similar concerns, have a special session to contribute our perspectives on gender within cultural, social, economic and political aspects of forestry within future WFCs and other forest-related fora.
We propose that women who represent groups of women be in decision making positions of the Policy and Drafting Committees of the next WFC.
We propose that funds be solicited to increase the participation of women from developing countries and others in need.
We propose that funds be solicited for facilitation and translation services for women to hold a forum preceeding the WFC, as was done for the Youth Forum.
We propose that women who can represent both forest users and forestry professionals are provided with a formal space within the WFC, as was provided to Youth, Indigenous Peoples, Forest Workers, and Local Forest Communities."
The WRM fully supports the above demands and believes that the gender issue has not been incorporated fully to the forest debate. Although differentiated impacts of deforestation on women have been well documented –particularly in Asia- as well as the differentiated roles that women play regarding forest conservation and use, neither forest campaigners nor women's networks have sufficiently incorporated the issue to their research, campaigning and lobbying agendas. The creation of this network must therefore be perceived as a positive step in the right direction.
Article based on information from: Notes prepared by Jeannette D. Gurung, Coordinator of the Network for Women in NRM, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org