FEATURE: Women and REDD+, more than just ‘Do No Harm’
Efforts to better integrate gender approaches in development are often dismissed with the charge : ‘there is nothing new to be said.’ It is widely felt that gender issues are sufficiently mainstreamed in project structures now, so that the gender implications of new programmes do not need to be examined.
The most recent Asia-Pacific REDD-net bulletin concludes that development of the REDD+ architecture presents a significant opportunity for advancing the interests of women. So far, progress in this area has been disappointing: an opportunity lost.
Many civil society groups call for caution on the design of REDD+. They warn that unless rigorous safeguards are in place, the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities stand at risk of being undermined.
However, this begs the question: is it enough to ensure women are not harmed by REDD+? The answer, arguably, is no. REDD+ should do more than avoid harming. Rather, it should actively contribute to enhancing and improving the condition of rural women. Drawing from lessons learned in community forestry, it is clear that REDD+ activities can and should be an instrument for actively enhancing the rights and position of marginalised groups such as women.
Because REDD+ is performance based, it provides us with exactly the tools and incentives to do so. It is possible to include indicators for women’s meaningful involvement in the planning and design of REDD+ activities, and indicators of their equal benefit from project payments. Doing so could catalyse social shifts in many societies of the region.
As a new USAID report, Gender and REDD+: An Asia Regional Analysis, concludes, ‘current discussions on REDD+ are very weak with respect to the gender dimension and to its impacts on rural women who have few or no options‘.
Women should be much more deliberately brought into the design and implementation of REDD+ and recognised as legitimate forest users and stakeholders – if not as an ethical imperative to recognise their rights, then because the success of REDD+ depends on it. Men and women have different experiences, knowledge and strategies for how to manage forests. Failing to incorporate half of the population in forest management has significant implications for food security, poverty alleviation and ultimately the well-being of forests.
In summary, REDD offers the potential for real improvements in the condition of women and yet, to date, the international community, governments, and project implementers appear to be missing the opportunity.
Regan Suzuki is REDD-net Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific region at RECOFTC – The Center for People and Forests
Photo: Eileen Delhi