Countries across the world are making pledges for restoring forest landscapes. These pledges are likely to be implemented through a combination of large-scale restoration and small-scale agroforestry. But these targeted landscapes are seldom just barren, unclaimed lands; they are inhabited by local communities and/or indigenous peoples, who may use the land for various purposes and claim lands even if they are not officially recognized as landowners or land users. This is especially complicated when these unrecognized owners are women, since women’s rights are even less secure under both customary and statutory regimes, and their voices even less heard in key decision making processes.
Past efforts at restoring forests show that excluding these groups and ignoring their claims may undermine the success of restoration efforts and further marginalize them. But, relying on them to restore degraded landscapes and thus only delegating the responsibility without recognizing their right is also not fair.
So the main topics are how can these pledges safeguard the rights of women and indigenous peoples and local communities? And how can women, indigenous peoples and local communities be involved in ways that enhance their access to resources, overall well being and not just rely on and/or further increase their work burdens?
What is gender and restoration?
There are many reasons for engaging with local women and men who contribute to, and are affected by, restoration initiatives. First of all, restoration initiatives often take place on lands utilized by communities, which may be considered ‘vacant’ by external actors and/or which may not be formally titled. If men are susceptible to losing their lands to restoration initiatives, rural women are all the more so, since their rights are especially tenuous due to legal and cultural barriers to women’s land rights and ownership. This insecure access to land and trees can also limit their ability and interest to plant or manage trees over which they may not have decision-making authority or long term access.
Engaging women and men in restoration initiatives is additionally important for gaining an understanding of local needs and interests, and for the opportunity to learn about local knowledge of ecosystems and resource management institutions. Due to their socially constructed gender roles, women’s and men’s environmental knowledge and priorities for restoration often differ. Ignoring women in restoration initiatives means that the priorities and knowledge of half of the population is ignored. The recognition within restoration initiatives of women as land managers and ecological knowledge holders can enhance the recognition and social standing they hold within their communities. Finally, equitable participation in restoration initiatives generates broader local buy-in and enhanced capacities, with improved prospects for both human and socio-economic development and environmental outcomes.
30 November 2017
14 November 2017 – COP 23 SIDE EVENT