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2023 International Women's Day

“The best way to innovate is to collaborate”

Wise words spoken by Rocio D. Condor-Golec, a Forestry Officer with FAO’s National Forest Monitoring Team from FAO'S Forestry Division, for the International Women’s Day theme of “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality”. Aligned with the priority theme for the upcoming 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-67), “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”, this year International Women’s Day is celebrating the women and girls who are championing the advancement of transformative technology and digital education.

The reasoning for it is simple - including women and other marginalized groups into digital and technology fields results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. However, major gender inequalities still persist in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and education. An UNESCO report found that only 35% of all students enrolled in STEM-related fields are female and only 28% of all of the world’s researchers are women.

This situation could place women even more at a disadvantage within the forestry sector. Given the realities that the sector is often already associated with men and contains various political, social, economic and cultural inequalities, women (and often other marginalised groups, such as indigenous peoples, the poor, youth, and handicapped, etc.) could face issues of double discrimination, further limiting their ability to fully participate in, contribute to, and benefit from REDD+.



It is precisely these inequalities and barriers which the UN-REDD Programme looks to address in its gender work, taking active steps to systematically promote gender equality and a human rights-based approach in its work since its formulation in 2008. And just as is the case with REDD+, maximizing the reach and power of STEM requires utilizing the widest pool of talent to promote innovation. Leaving out women and other marginalized groups in this process can create sub optimal results and is a loss of a resource for all. As recent research has illustrated, in 32 countries studied, just over a third of women were connected to the internet compared to almost half of men. This digital gender gap has a cost. A total of $1 trillion USD in GDP was missed out as a result of women’s exclusion from the digital world. In other words, a digital economy, with the full participation of women, is not just a good development policy, it is smart economics.1

Ret Thaung, Biodiversity and Science Manager (middle) with her colleagues during a data collection exercise in the forest


 Kibarosho Leintoi from Kenya practicing agroforestry 
Ret Thaung, Biodiversity and Science Manager  recording data 

Tecla Chumba, Kenyan woman from the Lembus tribe practicing agroforestry 

This situation is one that Rocio knows well. “I remember that when I was a student at university, I was passionate about reading and learning more about biotechnology. In the first years of my career, I did not yet have access to the internet, however, when I had to do my thesis, I was able to access the internet for the first time and consult many scientific journals. This opportunity changed my life forever.” Access is power.

The root causes of these disparities come from multiple sources. Stereotypes in many schools and families lead to unfounded beliefs that boys are more likely to succeed in STEM-based jobs, that heavily male-dominated STEM careers are not suitable for women or that investing in education is more important for boys than for girls.2

“Girls and women can also excel in innovation and technology”, as Ret Thaung a Biodiversity and Science Manager from Cambodia so poignantly points out. In addition to this, women also bring their dedication to protecting forests within their efforts on REDD+ action as well. In fact, 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. Their equitable involvement in REDD+ design, implementation, monitoring and reporting is crucial to REDD+’s success.

Brenda Nagasha, a biomass supervisor with Uganda’s National Forest Authority, demonstrates this critical role of women well. “It’s important to have accurate maps and reports on the status of the forests so that management teams can make wise decisions. For my job, I sometimes camp for thirty days straight in the forest and walk up to 15 kilometres a day. But I love nature and I am happy that through my work I can help protect the environment.”


A farmer from Kenya practicing agroforestry 




1 Alliance for Affordable Internet (2021). The Costs of Exclusion: Economic Consequences of the Digital Gender Gap. Web Foundation. Available at:

2 Marcus, Rachel. “Reducing gender inequalities in science, technology, engineering and maths”. ODI. Accessed on 28 February 2023. Available at:

A gender-responsive approach to innovation, technology and digital education is key in increasing the awareness of all on the value added of having women equitably involved in the STEM and digital fields. It is also critical for women and girls to see what is possible. For Ret, this means promoting a future where “women can equally access the technology and innovation field and where women and girls learn about STEM in high school, have increased access to STEM scholarships and vocational training as well as opportunities to learn about STEM from women role models.”

Many of these aspects are what Rocio also promotes in her work. However, she also acknowledges that gaps are still present, where efforts are needed to support countries in continuing to develop “policies and initiatives that enable equal access and participation of women and young people in science, innovation and technology, leaving no one behind. We need more women leaders, and we need to invest in developing their skills.”

A gap which the UN-REDD Programme is deliberately working to address. The UN-REDD Programme has found that the use of more virtual training modalities in recent years has promoted a larger audience and encouraged more women and men, who have digital access, to participate. In addition, through initiatives like the Lower Mekong’s Sustainable Forest Trade Incubation PlatformUN-REDD is working to break down barriers for women entrepreneurs and increase their access to finance and technology.

This is just a start. A wide range of steps are still necessary to ensure the future is one where opportunities to innovate within technical and digital areas are equitably accessible and possible for all. This vein, we, at UN-REDD, are striving to be advocates for gender equality and are working together to challenge stereotypes and remove barriers that limit women’s potential in forest technologies and innovation.

For International Women’s Day, we would also like to echo Rocio’s message for women and girls: “Study, train, build a network of friends and professionals that will allow you to grow and support each other. Believe in yourself; actively participate and seek change always, in all the goals you set for yourself.”

Watch Rocio's video interview here 

To find out more please visit our gender equality page

To read Rocio D. Condor-Golec's interview in full please visit our expert insights page

By the UN-REDD gender team: Elizabeth Eggerts, Amanda Bradley and Maria Victoria Suarez

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