Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, CIFOR and partners held a multi-stakeholder policy dialogue on ‘Governing oil palm for gender and women’s empowerment’ in Jakarta, Indonesia. Find out more about the event here.
Before the sun rises, 35-year-old Magdalena Pandan has visited her rubber crops, cooked for her family, bathed and got her children ready for school. At dawn she waits for the company pick-up to take her to work on the oil palm plantations. There, she distributes up to 300kg of fertilizer that makes her hands sting. She won’t wear gloves for fear they’ll slow her down and she’ll miss her daily target. In the afternoon, she returns home to work in her rice fields, and perform more household chores.
The mother of three says she won’t be able to do this work forever. “But what can you do when there are no other jobs?” she says. “You just go back to the oil palm plantation again.”
Pandan’s story is one example of the experiences of women in Indonesia’s palm oil industry discussed at a policy dialogue held last week in Jakarta. Hosted by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) together with the University of Indonesia and University of Brighton, the dialogue highlighted the latest research findings women’s experiences of oil palm expansion in Indonesia.
CIFOR research shows that women play a central role in oil palm — as part of local communities affected by the crop’s expansion, as formal and informal workers, and as smallholder producers.
Gender inequalities are rampant in relation to transfer of land to make way for oil palm, the treatment of workers, and the opportunities available to smallscale producers. And yet the current research and policy discussions on sustainable oil palm rarely consider gender issues. The researchers recommend that improving women’s rights and expanding their opportunities is critical if oil palm is to become truly sustainable.
Last week’s event in Jakarta brought together diverse stakeholders from the corporate sector, women’s rights advocacy groups, oil palm watchdogs, and other organizations supporting oil palm to share CIFOR’s ongoing research, and initiate discussions about challenges and opportunities for addressing gender issues in the sector.