Acknowledging the critical role indigenous women play in achieving effective, equitable and sustainable REDD+ action, the UN-REDD Programme organized the 2nd Indigenous Women’s Dialogue on Gender and Forests, during the 15th Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), on 12 May 2016. Bringing together indigenous women leaders, the dialogue built on the guidance provided by indigenous women leaders at the first UN-REDD event on gender and forests, held during the previous UNPFII, in 2015.
This year’s Dialogue dug deeper into policy issues around REDD+, particularly discussing how to effectively mainstream gender within the REDD+ policy cycle. Through in-depth knowledge exchange, the dialogue’s objectives focused on 1) exchanging good practices and lessons learned on integrating gender equality and social inclusion concepts into sustainable management of forests and REDD+; and 2) discussing the new draft UN-REDD methodological brief on gender to help ensure it adequately reflects and responds to indigenous women’s issues and concerns.
The participants provided a wide range of valuable operational and institutional recommendations to better mainstream gender along the policy cycle for REDD+ results and inform the UN-REDD methodological brief on gender. These insights are summarized below.
Involve indigenous women in gender-related assessments: When undertaking gender-responsive assessments and gender-specific analyses, there is need to ensure the active involvement of local and indigenous women, including in analysis design, data collection and validation processes. Doing so can help promote that the data collected and analysis conducted more appropriately reflect on-the-ground realities, and thus, accurately feeds into national REDD+ policies and links these to the needs and gaps present at the community level. In this work, it is necessary to ensure that sufficient resources (such as funding, training and capacity building) are made available to support the involvement of grassroots women. In addition, disseminating the results to women stakeholder groups in a format and manner which is accessible to them can also empower and encourage additional women to engage in REDD+ activities.
Create women’s groups and alliances: Given socio-political and cultural barriers, many indigenous women often face discrimination and threat from harmful social norms if they raise their voice. Thus, there is need to create and nurture specific spaces for their engagement and participation, and promote their empowerment. Bringing women with similar priorities and interests together in a group that is self-determined can help to develop a safe environment for them to create a collective and unified voice, foster alliances, develop the confidence and skills to strategically engage in REDD+, and access and influence decision-making processes.
Raise women’s awareness on their rights: Women at the grassroots level can often be unaware of their rights at both the international and national levels. As such, awareness raising efforts with indigenous women on their rights continues to be needed, so that they are equipped with the appropriate tools and knowledge to effectively and confidently raise their voice, overcome social barriers, exercise their rights, seek justice and hold governments and institutions accountable.
Integrate local contexts and women’s knowledge into capacity building on REDD+: Structure and design capacity activities based on local and indigenous women’s existing knowledge, local terminology and language use, being mindful to also distinguish between women’s specificities and not treat women as one homogenous group. Doing so can help ensure that women from different stakeholder groups understand the topics being discussed and their capacity can accordingly be properly built. Here, a multi-level process is advised, wherein national level trainers can be utilized to help translate international REDD+ concepts and terminology into understandable terms at the grassroots level. Adapting the terms and concepts to the reality, culture and context of local and indigenous women can help encourage and support their meaningful and active participation.
Increase knowledge exchange on good practices on gender equality and women’s empowerment in REDD+: Concrete good practices across regions, demonstrating how indigenous women are engaging around REDD+ and advocating for their increased involvement in such processes, can serve as an effective vehicle to drive change. It can also illustrate to peers what innovations are possible and empower others to undertake similar action in their countries/communities. They can also serve as an advocacy tool to demonstrate the role indigenous women play in the sustainable management of forests and in traditional forest management systems. The method, availability and accessibility of these good practices are also critical in dissemination processes.
Seek harmonization on gender approaches across REDD+ initiatives at country level: An aligned and common approach on gender and women’s empowerment within REDD+ policy and action continues to be a challenge in many countries. Agencies and organizations supporting governments on REDD+ often undertake action on gender and women’s participation in a more isolated manner. To avoid uncoordinated activities on gender, and to maximize the impacts of such efforts, synergies in gender approaches between entities, such as the UN-REDD Programme, World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, Climate Investment Fund’s Forest Investment Program, bilateral agreements, etc., should be more proactively sought at the country level.
This guidance shared by indigenous women during the Dialogue will help to inform the work undertaken by the UN-REDD Programme in supporting national and local REDD+ processes in integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment issues, particularly in the context of moving from advocacy to delivering action and results on the ground. The knowledge shared has also already been incorporated into the draft UN-REDD methodological guidance for gender, which is under finalization – please follow subsequent issues of the REDD+ Resource Newsletter for information on its release.
About the author
Elizabeth Eggerts has been working as a gender specialist for the UN-REDD Programme since 2014, supporting UN-REDD partner countries in integrating gender equality and women’s empowerment principles into their national REDD+ action. Prior to this, she has worked as a gender and climate finance specialist for the UNDP Gender Team in New York as well as in the private sector formulating and drafting environmental and social impact assessments and at the grassroots level, helping empower and build capacities of women to overcome homelessness. She holds a Masters degree in Sustainable International Development.