March 11, 2013

A Double-Edged Sword: Gender and REDD+

By Abidah Setyowati, Core Associate, Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN), USA.

Last Friday, the world observed the 102nd International Women’s Day, and for the past week, the Landscapes Blog has honed in on issues related to gender and landscape management. Today, Abidah Setyowati shares WOCAN’s experience integrating gender into Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) strategies. REDD+ is one of the few arenas in which agriculture and forestry are beginning to join forces, and there is an understanding of the need for integrated landscape approaches to management. However, gender has largely been sidelined in the design and implementation processes. WOCAN’s work is looking at the reasons for this, and identifying ways to encourage women’s leadership moving forward.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus (REDD+), has been widely considered as a promising avenue for mitigating climate change. In the last several years, many developing countries around the globe have initiated the development and implementation of REDD+ policies and projects, thereby transforming the ways forests are governed. Yet it can sometimes be a double-edged sword, as access and use of forest resources are often differentiated by gender.

On the one hand, if designed properly, REDD+ could help provide women with new rights to forest lands and resources, increase their capacity to engage in REDD+ decision-making, and improve their economic and social status. On the other hand, without accounting for the differences between men and women, REDD+ initiatives could perpetuate women’s exclusion from decision making processes and even reinforce gender inequality by working within existing socio-cultural norms, placing a higher value on the work of men. For instance, women could be subjected to heavier workloads without appropriately scaled compensation, displaced from or refused access to forests, denied a fair share of benefits, or left out of consultations and capacity-building activities.

Therefore, the adoption of a gender perspective in REDD+ is crucial to overcoming barriers to women’s meaningful engagement in all levels of decision making processes related to REDD+, and to ensure that women benefit from the initiative. Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resources Management (WOCAN) has pioneered research and advocacy work on gender and REDD+, and in 2011 concluded an early assessment of the extent to which REDD+ policies and programs in several countries in Asia adopt a gender perspective. Initial findings suggest that gender has not been systematically integrated in the REDD+ policies and projects. Moreover, limited participation of women representatives at various levels of consultations on REDD+ policies and projects has prevented women’s voices and concerns from being heard. In fact, such a failure to acknowledge women as equal partners in REDD+ processes  could reinforce gender inequality.

Nevertheless, women are not passive victims in this situation. Many female champions around the globe have shown leadership in advocating women’s increasing representations in multilevel decision-making processes and actively promoting the integration of gender in REDD+ policies. In a recent study conducted in Nepal and Indonesia, the WOCAN team found that women champions at the local and national level have pro-actively demanded to be engaged in the REDD+ decision-making processes. The study also revealed increasing awareness of the gender issue in REDD+ among various stakeholders in both countries. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done to ensure the acknowledgement of women’s rights in forest lands and resources, and the equal representation of women in the REDD+ governance structure.

Read More:
Gender, Forest Governance and REDD+ in Asia

Getting REDD+ Right for Women: An analysis of the barriers and opportunities for women’s participation in REDD+ Sector in Asia

Policy Brief: How bringing gender perspectives in REDD+ policies could engage effectiveness and empowerment

Photo credit: Charles Ehrhart (CARE)

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