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Planting Seeds for Women’s Roles in Forest Management

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2014 (IPS) - The role of women in the management of forests is crucial for the success of sustainable development, according to diplomats and experts meeting Friday to commemorate International Day of Forests.

With forests covering one-third of the earth, the panel of experts stressed that awareness of sustainable development of forests must be coupled with concrete action, along with the need to focus on women, as change agents and drivers for the cause.

“Women play a vital role in the agriculture sector and rural women in countries like Gabon rely heavily on the products from forests,” said Ambassador Marianne Bibalou, deputy permanent representative of Gabon to the U.N.

“This day helps set the stage for members of the U.N. forum on forests to make decisions for international and multilateral policies for forests.”

In May 2015 the UN Forum of Forests (UNFF) will hold its 11th session where member states will decide on the future of multilateral policies and institutions on forests.

“I urge member states to integrate the role of women in the sustainable management of forests in 2015 and to continue to support initiatives that empower women. Forests and the global community can only gain from women being involved,” said Susana Malcorra, U.N. chef de cabinet to the executive office.

Malcorra also stressed that although there has been some progress on gender equality, women are often excluded in the decision making process.

“Women’s contributions to forest management are largely in the form of informal and unpaid work and so their share of the benefits is not proportionate to their contribution,” she said.

She added the U.N. and the international community have the responsibility to “promote full involvement of women in the decision making process, resource allocation and research priorities relating to forests.”

Rosa Rogers, director of the documentary “Water Forests of Senegal”, said that although women were the ones that understood the importance of mangroves they were unrecognised as leaders and agents of change.

Most visible activists are men but it’s the women who are working in the mangroves every day. They gather food, collecting firewood and teach children about the mangroves, Rogers said.

With estimates of 1.6 billion people depending on forests for food, fuel, shelter and income worldwide, co-founder of “Project ORANGS”, Madison Vorva, stressed the impact of deforestation on communities and ecosystems.

“As consumers, we need to evaluate the way we are exhausting our planet’s resources. If we don’t consider the impacts of our purchasing decisions on local and global communities it’s easy for the continual destruction of our earth,” she said.

As Indonesia’s land comprises of 60 percent of forests and contributes to 10 percent of the world’s tropical forests, the Indonesian Ambassador to the U.N. Desra Percaya agreed with the continued the need for the implementation of sustainable forest management along with the involvement of women.

“We are confident that creating gender equity in forest management policy will benefit the success of sustainable forest management. Women’s involvement in forest decision-making in communities has shown to have positive effects on a range of forest management issues including the regulation of illegal activities and conflict management,” Percaya said.

“Women’s active participation in decision-making can improve governance and sustainable resources.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the United Nations formally declared the International Day of Forests in 2013 to raise awareness and to “acknowledge the vital role of forests and pledge to work together to protect and sustainably manage these vital ecosystems.”

 
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