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Expert: Donors could do more to champion gender in climate mitigation and forestry programmes

Experts believe a host of other priorities is drawing attention away from gender.

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Women processing amarula fruit (CIFOR/flickr)

DURBAN, South Africa (8 December, 2011)_The donor community could do more to push for the inclusion of women in climate strategies, said the head of a women’s organisation at the UN Climate talks in Durban. Many agencies and organisations are demonstrating ‘gender blindness’, leading to little investment and support for gender programmes in forestry, such as REDD+.

“Without the push from donors, or the drive to institutionalise gender at the programme level, there is little incentive to move ahead with gender-based programmes. Donors should provide greater support to  programmes that seek to enhance the role of women in forestry and resource management”, said Jeannette Gurung, Executive Director, Women Organising for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN).

A lack of strong female voices in forestry at the grassroots level is also reinforcing preconceptions that men dominate the sector, says Gurung. Though donors do support gender programmes, these are usually focused on  the more traditional ‘soft’ sectors of health, social and education instead of supporting the role of women in natural resource management.

The successful mainstreaming of gender into policy frameworks will be vital to ensure that the rights and needs of men and women are included in the design and implementation of climate migration strategies. Although some donor agencies have strong gender policies at the national level, “these rarely provide support to women’s organisations at the grassroots level,” argues Gurung.  So what is needed is to ensure that gender moves beyond the rhetoric to effective policy implementation?

“Donors will need to analyse their internal structures, processes and organisational cultures that reinforce gender inequalities in order to determine the gaps that need to be addressed. There also need to be internal changes that mandate attention and the commitment of resources to gender within forestry, especially for REDD programmes,” she added.

The problems are symptomatic of the wider issues facing the mainstreaming of gender in development programmes, highlighted in a recent report by the African Development Bank in May 2011.

The report states that donor organisations have failed “to put in place organisation-wide systems and resources necessary to make gender ‘everyone’s business’.” This includes the resources necessary to hire gender specialists, to improve inter-agency coordination and to ensure effective monitoring of gender programmes. Another reason for the failure, states the report, is the “fatigue concerning the ever-expanding number of priorities…the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), aid effectiveness, and governance agendas have crowded out gender mainstreaming.”

Lessons need to be learnt if the rights and interests of women are to be included in Reducing Emission and Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) strategies and proposals. Women are more dependent on forest resources for the majority of their food, fuel and livelihoods, and are therefore more likely to take an active role in the protection of forests.

“Studies are increasingly showing that when women are included in forest management, they have had a positive effect on the sustainable management of forests,” said Esther Mwangi, CIFOR scientist and gender specialist. “It makes sense that if they are involved in making decisions on REDD+, including in a share of the REDD+ benefits, they will feel incentivised to protect forest resources.”

Many organisations, such as WOCAN, GenderCC,  International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and CIFOR, are working to ensure that the rights of women to access land and forest resources are recognised in REDD+ strategies. They are also calling for increased political leverage in order for women to influence REDD+ policy decisions and discussions.

“Even when there are international agreements in place, or gender equality is recognised in national legislation – it must not stop there. Governments and donor agencies must take ownership and seek ways and means of implementing their commitments in the face of a range of competing priorities. There are good examples of this. Recent reforms of the system of Consultative Group research centres has seen a stronger support for gender research in natural resource management by donors and the broader development community,” said Mwangi.

Sheila Sisulu, the World Food Programme‘s Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions, talks to CIFOR at Forest Day 5 about the link between women’s livelihoods and the sustainable management of forests. More Forest Day 5 videos

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Topic(s) :   REDD+ Climate talks Gender