Forestry experts using the SEPAL platform in Kenya. Online learning opportunities are key to helping women improve their knowledge in forest monitoring. Photo Credit: FAO/Yelena Finegold
Capacity development activities in forest monitoring, including face-to-face workshops and online courses, can serve as important tools for increasing awareness on gender. However, women and other underrepresented groups, including youth, Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities, face significant barriers to accessing opportunities to participate in training and other capacity development initiatives, particularly in the forest sector. These barriers commonly include household burdens such as childcare, as well as social norms that undervalue the role of women in forestry.
While there are a number of strategies for improving women’s participation in these initiatives, it can be useful to canvas ideas directly from the participants of trainings to further improve gender aspects. Such was the case for the recent System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring (SEPAL) online facilitated course conducted from March to May, 2023.
Through an online survey conducted at the end of the course, FAO was able to gather suggestions for making upcoming sessions more accessible to women and underrepresented groups. They provided positive feedback on some gender-inclusive aspects of the course already in place, including the fact that the course is free, and a self-paced version that helps accommodate women’s schedules.
However, one of the most common suggestions was to disseminate the course announcement through networks, social media, and direct targeting of women and underrepresented groups. FAO continues to identify new channels to target these groups and to spread information about the course. The organization has also taken the suggestion to involve women as facilitators and instructors in the delivery of the live sessions and webinars. Another suggestion adopted was to showcase the positive experience of women who have participated in the course.
Participant feedback also highlighted technological barriers to accessing information, including poor internet connection and lack of computing equipment. As a result, FAO is looking at the possibility of piloting training hubs with computers and good internet connectivity in more remote locations for participants to take the course. In addition, the organization is considering another suggestion to target female university students through direct links to higher education institutions. Finally, FAO was alerted to the need to make the course accessible to the hearing impaired, either through a sign language version or inclusion of subtitles and closed captions.
FAO has consistently prioritized a gender responsive approach throughout the project cycle and has trained a significant number of women in various aspects of forest monitoring and data transparency. Three editions of a massive free open online course on forest monitoring and transparency have been offered on the FAO eLearning Academy platform in English, French and Spanish. This course introduced participants to the concepts of the Enhanced Transparency Framework (ETF) under the Paris Agreement, National Forest Monitoring Systems (NFMS) and on how forest data is supporting the ETF.
Due to gender mainstreaming efforts, the first, second and third editions achieved 37, 39 and 36 percent women’s participation, respectively. This course is available in a self-paced version in English, French and Spanish.
Using lessons learned, FAO has been able to scale up and improve the delivery of the online courses. One recent example is the online facilitated course, Forest and Land Monitoring for Climate Action – SEPAL. The course supports knowledge and skills development to apply high-resolution satellite imagery from the NICFI satellite data programme to critical forest and land monitoring in tropical forest countries. The first edition attracted 34 percent female participants and is also available in a self-paced version in English, French and Spanish.
The launch of the SEPAL course stems from a successful partnership among several resource and technical partners, spearheaded by FAO and including AIM4Forests funded by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and SEPAL funded by Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI).
Under the UN-REDD Programme, FAO is working towards an open science approach whereby capacity development initiatives are accessible at all levels through collaborative networks. Women, youth, and underrepresented groups will benefit from this approach, and in turn, forests will benefit from their unique knowledge and contributions.