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Monitoring gender equality and social inclusion in forest and landscape restoration programmes

Blog | Tue, 28 Nov, 2023 · 8 min read
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Woman and child plant together a tree in a field

Global ambition to restore deforested and degraded lands has been increasing over the last decade as people have recognized the important role that healthy lands play in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and mitigating climate change. This increase in global ambition can be seen in the Bonn Challenge, which increased its global restoration goal to 350 million hectares by 2030. However, there is a critical gap in many restoration efforts that people often overlook. Restoration efforts are often gender blind. While focused on numbers of trees and numbers of hectares, they fail to consider a critical social aspect – namely the full involvement of women and other marginalized groups in restoration efforts.

Some may ask, why is it so important to involve women and other marginalized groups in restoration efforts? The answers are several. First, at the highest level, including women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups in development initiatives is a human rights obligation. International agreements reinforce this commitment. For instance, the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) calls for women to ‘participate in and benefit from rural development’.  Likewise, the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) emphasizes the right for indigenous peoples ‘to be actively involved in developing and determining…economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.’

Furthermore, from a more practical standpoint, restoration efforts will benefit from the knowledge that diverse groups will bring. For example, women may know ways to control pests that men are not aware of. Indigenous peoples may know better where and when to collect tree seeds. In addition, involving various groups tends to generate broader local buy-in and incentivize all segments of the population to contribute to restoration efforts. This local solidarity in turn, provides greater opportunities for enhancing the well-being of men and women alike, and increasing the long-term sustainability of restoration efforts.

By contrast, there are risks in excluding women and other marginalized groups or in failing to recognize their contributions. Gender-blind restoration initiatives can exacerbate gender inequalities by further restricting women’s access to land and resources, undermining their voice and agency, and heightening their work burden. It is important to recognize some of the barriers that women in particular face when it comes to engagement in restoration work. These may include lack of access to land (i.e. tenure rights), household drudgery, and gender-based violence. Restoration initiatives need to adapt strategies to overcome these barriers through for example: joint land titling, gender awareness raising, and accessible and responsive complaints mechanisms, among others.

That is why FAO, with its UN-REDD Programme partners, supports countries to integrate gender-responsive activities within the design, implementation, and delivery of their REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) actions so that all stakeholders, including women, men, and youth (and boys and girls, when relevant) can equitably and meaningfully engage and participate in these and other activities.

In fact, recently, with the support of UK Pact, FAO has published a brief to support the monitoring of these aspects. Entitled Monitoring Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in forest and landscape restoration programmes, this brief (available in English, French, and Spanish) introduces the concept of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) in forest restoration practices; provides guidance on what to consider in establishing monitoring systems; and elaborates a long list of potential indicators. These indicators suggest how to measure not only how well a restoration programme reaches women, but also how it benefits, empowers, and transforms their lives. The publication emphasizes the need for clear monitoring objectives and specific GESI-related objectives and targets; and the importance of using qualitative and quantitative methods, of involving women in monitoring activities, of minimizing reporting burdens, of ensuring transparency in communicating results, and of using monitoring results to adapt and improve implementation.

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Cover of publication showcasing a woman and a child planting a tree
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Amanda Bradley, Specialist in tenure, gender and Indigenous Peoples presented the publication at the event "Developing a Roadmap for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework Target 2" held in FAO headquarters in Rome, November 2023.
Cover of the publication. Amanda Bradley, Specialist in tenure, gender and Indigenous Peoples presented the publication at the event "Developing a Roadmap for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework Target 2" held in FAO headquarters in Rome, November 2023. Photo credit: FAO/Pilar Valbuena

 

It is important to recognize that for the success of global restoration efforts, this important aspect of gender equality and social inclusion cannot be ignored – for the sake of the well-being of rural communities, but also for the sake of our effectiveness in tackling climate change.