Long focusing on climate change issues, processes and mechanisms as among its top priorities, WEDO has been, since 2009, involved in pioneer efforts to understand the gender implications of REDD+, a mechanism based on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. WEDO's work has focused on ensuring that policies, initiatives, proposals and financing mechanisms related to REDD+ respect and promote women's rights and women's vital role as stakeholders, as well as fully incorporate a gender perspective.
Why gender and forests?
Worldwide, both women and men are forest managers and primary users of forest biodiversity. Their unique knowledge, experience and leadership, both formal and informal, necessarily contribute to the management and conservation of forest ecosystems. Often as a result of cultural norms and social roles, communities have a gender-differentiated relationship with to forests, for example:
- Women and men's livelihood dependence on forests is different;
- Women and men obtain different products and receive different benefits from forests;
- Women and men have different knowledge, access to and control of forests; and
- Women and men contribute in different ways to forest conservation and management.
What is REDD+?
The basic idea behind reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) is simple: countries that are willing and able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation should be financially compensated for doing so. The actions of this mechanism were agreed during the sixteenth Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun in 2010, and included not only reducing deforestation and forest degradation, but further considered conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks as potential actions to consider toward climate change mitigation (REDD+). REDD+ is intended to be a mitigation response to climate change (to reduce net carbon emissions), but in addition, it simultaneously could be a payment for an environmental service (the conservation of forests) and a development intervention (to promote sustainable resource management and improve livelihoods).
Women's rights, gender equality and REDD+
Gender equality is achieved by promoting actions that provide equal rights, voice, responsibilities and opportunities for men and women across all aspects of life, in society, at work and in the home. Gender equality is an issue concerning both women and men, and engagement of both is integral to its achievement. Women are often the focus of gender responsive forest policies for two primary reasons: (1) women have context-specific roles as forest managers and practitioners that contribute to mitigation and adaption activities in their households, workplaces, communities and countries, and that tend to be overlooked by gender-blind initiatives, and (2) persistent and structural inequalities prevent women from full and effective involvement in forest programs.
In its most straightforward form, with numerous variables set aside, REDD+ has great potential: it could support the protection and promotion of forests, reduce emissions to halt the further intensification of climate change, and provide "co-benefits" (e.g. gender equality; increased access to resources and decision-making spheres; improved livelihoods,) to forest communities, in particular. Taken comprehensively, and pursued as a development activity, it could contribute to sustainable development, economic activity across multiple levels, and reduction of poverty. Even more so, it could contribute to decreasing the gender gap: transforming gender role stereotypes, especially as they pervade the forestry sector, empowering local women as decision-makers and rights-holders, and contributing to enhancing local livelihoods.
But, as concerns over REDD+ mechanisms are plentiful, a number of variables need to be addressed. Not least, the rights of Indigenous communities, local forest dwellers, and women deeply dependent upon forests for their lives and livelihoods must be not only safeguarded - but championed. Particularly from a gender perspective, REDD+ safeguards and standards must rigorously identify, analyze and pose solutions for empowering women and upholding the countless international and national-level mandates for gender equality and human rights. Without doing so, REDD+ schemes will not succeed - and they may do far more harm than good.
From concepts to actions
Transforming the forest sector, leaf by leaf
So words must turn to action. In 2011-2012, WEDO joined with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to support international momentum-building toward gender responsive REDD+. WEDO and IUCN partnered in three countries to draft gender and REDD+ roadmaps with local stakeholders. (See snapshots and links below!)
Building on that effort, WEDO was pleased to partner with the REDD+ Social and Environmental Standards Initiative in 2012-2013 to strengthen the gender dimension of two key elements of REDD+ SES - the content and the process. The partners set out to fully unpack and address the links between gender, REDD+ and its safeguards and standards and engage in a constructive process with multiple stakeholders to move beyond the conceptual level and generate concrete suggestions to develop a gender responsive REDD+ country process. Through participatory workshops across four countries, recommendations were put forward to strengthen the standards themselves and inform action-oriented guidelines for implementation.
Making policy work for women and men
Through dedicated advocacy, language agreed at global level acknowledges that addressing "gender considerations" is an essential aspect of policy-making and practice on any REDD+ program. As From research to action, leaf by leaf explores, "gender considerations" are context- and country-specific but have commonalities and shared urgencies across every forest community. More than anything, perhaps, it suggests that words on paper are a means to an end - and it is WEDO's hope that its newest publication helps contribute toward a just world that promotes and protects human rights, gender equality and the integrity of the environment, especially for the women and men living in forests from the Amazon to the Himalayas and everywhere in between.