Guest author: Ms. Lydie Hountondji, Tolasreypeou SEM
Forests are vital for Cambodia, especially for forest-dependent communities, who are the ones suffering from the primary effects of climate change, forest deforestation and poor land management. Communities depend on forests for resources to build a house, collect traditional medicine to cure common illnesses and earn subsistence income from sale of non-timber forest products. Because of their close physical and spiritual connection to the forests, these communities often engage directly in forest management.
Access to and use of such forest resources and knowledge often varies among women and men in Cambodia. For example, physical activities like patrolling and harvesting trees for house construction are often completed by men. Women collect food for their household consumption and sale, and undertake smaller tasks near home to stay close to their children, in addition to their daily household duties.
Amid this vast green mass, however, women have been minimally engaged in decision-making processes and low participation in forest management. Cambodian society remains largely patriarchal, and women often are socially, politically and economically marginalized. This reality often results in women being unintentionally left out of forest-related planning and implementation processes.
Although, they are keen to participate in the technical aspects of forest management, they are nonetheless, reluctant to get involved because of their lack of confidence in their own capacity and competencies. Therefore, their participation in decision-making processes on forest management is quite limited and their rights are not always respected.
Women’s meaningful involvement in forest management and conservation is crucial. They tend to have more skills and knowledge about forests, animals and plants. Both women and men are key agents of change, whose unique but often differentiated knowledge, skills, and experience are vital for a successful forest management and conservation.
Recognizing these gender inequalities and the important role women play around forest protection and use, the Royal Government of Cambodia has been undertaking active steps over the last few years to address these gender gaps.
This work has been undertaken with help and support from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility under the REDD+ programme, focusing on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation in the country, and enhancing carbon stocks (REDD+). The aim of this work is to conserve forests and equitably improve the livelihoods of women, men and youth in forest dependent communities.
To achieve this goal, efforts on gender are currently being integrated through different national policies and strategies. In addition, various activities have be conducted, such as trainings to promote women’s self-confidence, involve them in forest-related activities and decision-making, and encourage men to promote women’s involvement.
But what is the future of women in forest management and conservation? Cambodia is committed to REDD+ and gender, and as such, these efforts have the potential to have a long-lasting impact on empowering women and girls to help them build resilient livelihoods.