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Eight steps to restoring the balance


EXPLORE gender issues through two-way communication

with rural women, recognizing that the needs of men and of women may not be the same, and that the impact of projects on them may therefore be different


INVESTIGATE the customs, taboos and time constraints

that women face, realizing that knowledge and common sense can go a long way to overcoming these constraints


PROMOTE the role that women do and can play in forestry activities

at each level, and analyse the ways in which projects either include or exclude them


EXCHANGE information with individuals at every level

with local women on forestry activities, with practitioners on involving women in forestry, with policy makers on women's roles in forestry


SUPPORT women's group and encourage the formation of new ones

that help women gain access to decision making and the political process, and strengthen women's support for one another


WORK together to provide access to land and trees

recognizing customary and.traditiona women's holdings, ensuring women are included where land is privatized, and seeking creative solutions for landless women


COLLABORATE to make credit and income available to women

either individually, or through women's groups


CONSULT with women

ensuring that women's needs have been considered, and the impact of new techniques or trees on women's lives have been evaluated

Evolving future policies

Sensible policies can overcome some constraints. The first requirement is that women must be specifically (though rarely exclusively) targetted when projects are being formulated. The fundamental need is to evaluate a project's potential impact on, and expected benefits to, both men and women separately. Gender issues need careful analysis if unintended effects on either sex are to be avoided.

Preliminary research may be needed to establish exactly how a project is likely to affect women. Such things are not always obvious. A common mistake in the past, for example, has been to introduce new crops or products that require heat processing or excessive drying. These innovations may well increase men's incomes but only at the expense of making much arduous work for the women who have to collect the extra fuelwood.

Enquiries need to be made into the needs, interests, talents and desire for participation of the women in communities to be affected by forestry projects. In effect, this means involving women in project design as well as project execution. Doing so can automatically eliminate some of the less desirable practices of the past in which, for example, projects have specifically planned to employ large numbers of women in nurseries- but only because they could be paid less than were the men.

Another fundamental issue that will require further analysis in the future concerns the role of women in the cash economy. Because women have traditionally operated in the subsistence sector, it is tempting to design projects to assist them only in their traditional roles. In fact, women urgently need to be brought more fully into the cash economy, and to be provided with credit and security of land tenure on an equal basis with men.

If means can be found to enable women to participate, if sufficient numbers of sensitive professionals can be found to make the initial contacts and carry out preliminary research, and if gender issues are specifically identified early on in project planning, future forestry projects could break much new ground.

In the process, both rural women and professional foresters could gain a great deal. Enabling women to benefit more fully from forest resources is likely to prove one of the most rewarding and environmentally benign ways of fighting rural poverty.

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