Forests and Gender: A Catalytic Alliance for Sustainable Development

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While it is widely acknowledged that gender equality and women’s empowerment act as catalysts for achieving sustainable development, many efforts still focus on advocacy and isolated activities. The challenge ahead lies in forging alliances between gender equality and every policy and programme for sustainable development. This includes forests, a key ecosystem that simultaneously underpins local livelihoods, national economies and the global fight to mitigate climate change.

The fate of forests is inextricably linked to gender issues. In rural areas, women play critical roles within forests, as users and custodians: women’s knowledge and practices of forests sustain household economies and healthy ecosystems alike. Yet forestry is a male-dominated sector, with men leading the key economic and policy decisions related to forests. This paradox is further aggravated by persistent socioeconomic, cultural and legal barriers that prevent women to fully participate in, contribute to, and benefit from forest policy and management efforts.

The only way ahead is, first, to acknowledge the differentiated and valuable knowledge, skills and roles of women and men in forest resources and management; and then, to integrate such gender differentiated perspectives into policy and programme responses. Such a forest-gender nexus will support the achievement of various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land). As gender gaps and barriers do not rest on a multitude of issues, undertaking gender mainstreaming cannot be a one-off activity. It is rather a cross-cutting issue, with multiple entry points to pursue.

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