A Report of Major Group WOMEN to the UNFF 5
United Nations, New York
May 15- 28, 2005
This is a report by one of the women UNFF 5 delegates of the Major Group WOMEN, Kanchan Lama, Director of Society
for Partners in Development, Nepal. Though it is a personal account, reflecting her own perspective, it has been selected to
be disseminated as a report of the Major Group WOMEN based on its honesty and fresh insights.
First of all, I would like to thank Annina Lubbock for taking all the trouble to raise funding in IFAD for my participation in
the UNFF 5th session. I also express my heartfelt gratitude to Pekka Patosaari, Director of UNFF Secretariat, UN for inviting
me to attend the global forum on UNFF in its 5th session. It was an important event in my life for my learning about global
environment in forestry development policy making. I have been working closely with gender and forestry development for
last sixteen years and had a very different image of global forestry environment than the one I experienced in UNFF 5th
session. I gained important lessons for enhancing my work back in my country.
The objectives of my participation were:
To contribute to the “discussion paper” to be prepared by the women major group in the process of preparation
towards presenting to the UNFF5 decisions
To highlight on the following points:
i. Degraded forest land, while given to resource poor rural women living near forest, can manage very well for sustainable
forestry purpose as well as to improve livelihood.
ii. Partnership and collaboration between civil society and government agencies, as well as among various government line
agencies, such as, Livestock services, forestry and bank led to maximum benefit to rural women and men, resulting on:
Economically enabling environment
Institutional development and
Local self governance
iii. Forestry development programmes and policies need to be re- oriented towards the actual needs and priorities of poor
women farmers and gender mainstreaming in forestry organizations has to be promoted. Participation by the people
should be promoted more and more through NGOs, which is not yet happening at the desired level in all forestry
iv. UNFF5 should plan for incorporating the critical lessons learnt through the leasehold forestry project, specifically on:
Project/programme design by involving women and men forest users
Re orienting forestry development organizations for gender /social inclusion issues
Restructuring traditional forestry development organizations into progressive people‟s institutions
Multidimensional strategies in forestry development projects/programmes, having economic development, socio-
political empowerment and private and public partnership strategies
Focusing on women as central in poverty reduction strategies
Integration of social issues in technical training and extension
Sharing, learning and lobbying for promotion of grassroots issues to influence global policies in order to maximize
benefits for the poor
I had all these intentions prior to joining the forum. But I changed the direction of my intervention after experiencing the
first day of the forum. I concentrated my attention in promoting gender concerns in most of the side events because what I
imagined before was not seen in the forum at all. In fact I had an expectation that there must be some more structured design
for highlighting women‟s interests in forestry issues. However listening to the deliberations in the plenary, I found that no ne
of them mentioned “WOMEN” as a stakeholder or actors, advisors or owners. The deliberations were concentrated in
informing data about how many trees planted in how many hectares and its economic return for the country revenue.
Being from Nepal, an under developed country, I found a big difference between the needs and priorities between the North
and South about forest priorities and expectations.
I realized immediately that the design of UNFF should have incorporated a gender professional and also that a critical mass
of women from the civil society, NGOs and networks must attend this kind of global forum from my region in order to
influence the global policy making process in favour of the forest based resource poor communities.
I was disappointed at discovering a gap between the women rights activists and the forestry professionals. I think that
women rights activists must be present in such important technical forums so that they can raise their collective voice in
presence of such a huge gathering in order to make themselves visible, listened, counted and recognized by forestry
development agendas. Without this forestry development policies cannot claim to be sustainable, at least for the South Asia
A case: Changing attitudes of government forestry officials for women is a big challenge!
Prior to leaving my country, I had a brief discussion with the Secretary of Ministry of Forest of my country, Mr Ananta Raj
Pandey, delivered a letter from the Focal Point of the Women Major Group (Jeannette Gurung) appreciating his gender
mainstreaming efforts within his ministry, and requesting him to join the UNFF meeting and to support my claims for two
issues: GO-NGO partnership and women‟s empowerment (gender) process. He was supportive.
When we met in the Bangkok Airport awaiting our flight to New York, a government official accompanying him inquired,
“How come the donors spend money on NGOs and others than government representatives unnecessarily, I do not
understand how you can be allowed entry into such high level forum! May be you will be attending side events of NGOs
only!” His resentment against an NGO representative and a woman was clear from his expression; However the Secretary
quickly returned his words by saying, “it is important also for NGOs to collaborate! So you should make good
I was not surprised at all because in Nepal, this is a day to day experience of NGOs and INGOs with the government, which
is painful but also challenging,….although it is not the same with every government official.
Later on, I was the one – not the government officials - who presented the successful case of leasehold forestry from Nepal
for the plenary session event of the Asia Pacific Day, where I advocated for GO-NGO partnership and gender mainstreaming
as a model for poverty reduction through forestry development. My Secretary supported my presentation.
Later on I was given a pass to attend the High Level Segment policy decision making meetings. So it was not only an
opportunity but also a revolutionary step bestowed by UNFF for me, for which I shall be always grateful, because our senior
government officials now understand that women are regarded as important partners in the global forest policy making
process and that this needs to be replicated at the national level.
2. The Report
This report describes my participation in UNFF 5 sessions and my contribution to the process of:
Voicing concerns for resource allocation to developing countries for implementing programs on sustainable
management of forests by women
Appreciating women‟s issues in forest management in the South Asian context and promoting women‟s rights to
productive resources like forestland
Advocating on women‟s rights to legal reforms within forest policies so that they gain independent ownership on
forest related property
Raising voice for positioning of a gender structure within UNFF for gaining more power by women in global
policy making influencing rural women‟s livelihood
2.1 The beginning – a caucus meeting of women
Despite well organized efforts among women from different areas, it was very difficult to push the agenda of women‟s
concerns into the global UNFF-International Arrangements for Forests (IAF) policy making process. From the first day,
Jeannette D. Gurung, the WOCAN Director and Focal Point of the major group “WOMEN” organized a meeting as the
women‟s caucus with a view to reach consensus on how to organize our advocacy efforts during plenary as well as during
other side events in order to produce more impact during the UNFF sessions. We were altogether six members in the caucus
meeting (Abida, Yamile, Jeannette, Kanchan, Anna and Simone); others were expected to join the next day. Even if it was a
Sunday, the coordinator of the UNFF Major Groups, Ms Ghazal Badiozamani herself facilitated our entrance to the UN
meeting room. We six held the brief meeting and decided to intervene through presentation of a statement from the women
major group by Jeannette with all our inputs and ourselves attending indigenous forum events and events as per our own
countries so that we could advocate on the women‟s agenda in forestry development decisions.
Two participants from the Major Group “NGOs” first questioned our legitimacy to represent the interests of all women in
this forum. They were briefed about the efforts started at the 12th World Forest Congress, 2003 to make women a visible
feature of all forestry related forums and discussions, and the believe that there would be no response proposed by the
forestry policy makers to the issues of women without such a presence. Thus we came to a consensus that besides
participating in the UNFF meetings, a few of us would also personally meet the policy makers at UNFF 5 to voice our
agenda for increasing women‟s participation in the global forum and to propose structural changes within the UNFF
secretariat to address gender concerns. We also planned to meet with the media for making our campaign more visible and
2.2. Statement by Major Group WOMEN to the UNFF 5
Jeannette read out the following statement at the plenary session on 17th May 2005:
“We would like to begin this statement of Major Group WOMEN by acknowledging the support provided by the UNFF
secretariat and the positive spirit with which members of this forum have welcomed our engagement in many meetings and
sessions, particularly within the last two years.
Our participation in the UNFF is framed by the realities of forest-dependent women and their families who are most affected
by forest policies discussed here. Forest exploitation as well as protection can add to the hardships of poor and indigenous
women by denying them access to the forest products they need for energy, food, medicine, livestock feed, etc. while
providing no alternatives for them to meet their families’ basic needs. We are particularly worried about the impacts of
forest privatization and market-based conservation policies in this respect, like the promotion of carbon trade. For example,
women often do not have a formal title to their land, which means that their sustainable forest management efforts tend to be
ignored in environmental services payment schemes. Women are also affected by the expansion of monoculture tree
plantations. We hope that a focus on poverty alleviation and local management, combined with capacity building initiatives,
can provide women with opportunities to engage with forestry initiatives and institutions on a more equal basis than has
happened in the past.
We would like to remind this audience of a commitment made in Agenda 21 in 1992, and the World Summit on Sustainable
Development in 2002: “We are committed to ensuring that women’s empowerment, emancipation and gender equality are
integrated in all the activities encompassed within Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals and the Plan of
Implementation of this Summit.”
Agenda 21 is the international agreement where this intention has been most clearly defined within the environmental
sector, and yet the environmental sector is among those where the discussion and mainstreaming of gender equity has taken
place in a fragmented, superficial and inconsistent manner. Most of the international events and meetings of the
environmental sector, as well as the environmental organizations within the civil society, NGOs or GOs, do not consider
gender equality as an essential element for the achievement of sustainable development.
As a result, three major international legally-binding agreements for sustainable development - the United Nations
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the UN
Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) – have unevenly addressed the gender perspective of Agenda 21.The
UNFCCC, for example, neither mentions a gender perspective nor women and men as specific stakeholders in the
The inadequate participation by women in environment and sustainable development decision-making, and the
marginalization of women from governance of environmental resources are issues of major concern.
The current level of attention to gender issues and women’s productive engagement with forest related institutions and
IFF/IPFs is grossly inadequate if the goals of sustainable development and poverty alleviation are to be met. Resources must
be made available to strengthen capacity-building initiatives for rural women and for forest-related organisations and
educational institutions to implement gender –related programmes and organisational changes.
The IAF must itself develop the expertise to guide governments to undertake this work, so as to implement IFF/IPFs for
sustainable forest management. Clearly, capacity building is key to moving forward to fulfil policy commitments to these
goals. We recommend that the IAF establish a separate unit, with financial resources and expertise in forestry and gender
and development, to assist countries and other members and partners through technical assistance and training to develop
the policies, skills and knowledge for integrating gender into forest-related agencies.
3. Intervention during the Asia-Pacific Day, 18 May 2005
This year the regional Day of UNFF was organized for the Asia Pacific region. The main plenary was devoted to this
discussion, where the five persons were invited to speak. The objectives of the Asia and Pacific Day plenary were to:
Highlight the role of forests in sustainable livelihoods in the region
Share knowledge and lessons learned in the challenges of sustainable forest management
Strengthening partnerships to promote sustainable forest management in the region
Promote a stronger Asia-Pacific participation in the inter governmental forest processes
Although I had not been invited to speak at this plenary beforehand, I felt privileged that the moderator (Ms Neria Anon,
Deputy Director of Forest Department, Philippines) and UNFF organizers asked me to present my experiences on women
and sustainable forest management. In order to make interventions on behalf of the Women Major Group agenda, I presented
the case of my own project entitled, “Towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals of promoting Gender Equality
and Empowering Women to Reduce Poverty” through intervention in gender equality, environmental protection and
reducing poverty.The summary of the presentation, as presented in “Earth Negotiations Bulletin UNFF-5: UNFF highlights:
Wednesday, 18 May, 2005” is as follows:
Kanchan Lama, Society for Partners in Development, Nepal presented on initiatives to empower women through
community based forest management in Nepal. She said poverty is rooted in discriminatory ownership of
productive resources such as forests, noting that rural women are deprived of property rights, information,
services and opportunities to organize. She outlined efforts to promote gender equality and empower women
through: building capacity, promoting environments that recognize women as development agents, establishing
district level NGOs and associations at national level, networking and mentoring, and sharing lessons from
grassroots –level experiences with national and international for a. Lama identified lessons learned, including
that: social mobilization through gender mainstreaming can enhance women’s economic status and enables them
to reduce poverty by diversifying livelihoods. She recommended resource allocation, legal reform, capacity
building and gender mainstreaming in technical departments.
The same newspaper also mentioned the statement of Nepal‟s forest Secretary that the government has developed gender
action plan and is looking for funding assistance. Indeed, the Major Group Women members were pleasantly surprised by
the statement read by Nepal‟s Secretary of Forests expressing support for gender and social equity-sensitive organizations:
Our forestry sector has given high priority to gender and social equity. Realizing the need of gender and social
inclusion in sustainable forest management, the Minstry of Forests and Soil Conservation has drafted a national
vision on gender and social equity in the forest sector. To achieve this vision, the forestry sector will work for
equitable access to resources and benefits, promote equitable governance and develop gender and equity-sensitive
organizations and strategies.
4. Women and Forests Side Event, 20 May 2005
Jeannette Gurung, Director of WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management)
welcomed all of the participants (about 35 women and men) to the side event on “Women and Forests”. She started the
discussion by introducing WOCAN as a global level network of women and men who are engaged in agriculture, natural
resource management and interested in gender issues. This side event was organized in cooperation with CIFOR in order to
explore ideas and experiences through sharing about own experiences as women professionals, government officials,
activists and female forestry students. Through this process, some concrete recommendations and feedback can be drawn for
the improvement of the International Arrangement on Forests.
Ms Abidah Billah Setyowati from Indonesia shared her experiences about how the public forest policies led to negative
impacts on the women‟s life in Indonesia. Drawing the case study in Halimun, West Java, Indonesia, Abidah discussed the
impact of forestry policies on women and how they responded and resisted them. She said that in her country, women play
significant roles in forest management but they have been marginalized especially in decision-making processes.
There are some consequences: first, the loss of indigenous knowledge, for instance, making it hard to find medicinal plants;
second, uncertainties of secure access to the forest; third, women have to work harder to earn a living for their family; fourth,
the sense of insecurity of tenure dragged women into fear of losing access to forest products, particularly non timber forest
product. Facilitated by an NGO, the effected women gradually organized themselves to claim their use rights of the essential
products for their livelihood and to reclaim their lands that had been designated to become a national park.
Abidah argued that independent rights of women should be adopted in natural resources related policies which acknowledge
that the main actors in the natural resources management consists of women and men, with their different needs, interests
and priorities. However, giving secure forest access to women might not be sufficient without increasing their capacity to
access markets, decision-making processes, education, authority, capital, technology, labor, and other factors. Therefore,
capacity building becomes a key strategy to move forward. To develop the capacity building of a local community,
especially of women, we need to first facilitate changes in perception and attitude, both for women and men. This effort will
construct the equal relation in the public and domestic sphere. Otherwise, involving women in particular public activities
will burden women with much more work. Second, we also need to improve women‟s participation in decision-making
processes and access to education, health and productive resources, etc. Third, changes in programs and legal and
administrative frameworks that support women‟s tenure and land rights are required. Abidah then raised a question for
further discussion: How does the International Arrangement on Forests support women‟s empowerment and livelihoods?
Ana Filipini shared experiences from the World Rain Forest Movement about the impact of monoculture plantation on
women. In the implementation of PfA‟s the role of women has been crucial but not necessarily beneficial. Some of the
proposals actually worsen the situation of women; the worst has been impacts through plantations. Forests are a source of
food; through plantation development, access to forests providing food and fuelwood has diminished. Water has also become
scarce, as plantations require more water than they actually produce, forcing women to spend more and more time bringing
water from long distances. Although plantations sometimes provide more employment opportunities, at the same time they
make other living conditions worse. Labor conditions for women are worse then men, salaries are lower. The HIV infection
level is high in plantation areas – truck drivers are partially to blame for this. Some women have been poisoned by the
pesticides as well.
Ana stressed that because these women cannot approach high level government officials, we have an obligation to speak on
Ruth Mubiru shared her experiences in the Uganda Women Tree Planting Movement of Uganda. She said that women in the
rural communities of Africa highly depend on NTFPs for their livelihoods. Women lack control over trees that are owned by
their husbands, so the government has taken affirmative actions for promoting women‟s roles in forestry policy making
processes and livelihoods. Still women are not part of the decisions made on privatizing land; investors don‟t consult women
who plant trees.
Dr. Alice Akinyi Kaudia from Zambia Forestry College raised two basic questions:
1. What can be done to improve the situation of women at many levels, in the new arrangement on forests?
2. With limited resources in development cooperation women seem to be the losing one. Partnerships in community
forestry often lead to men gaining all the benefits. In such situations, what can we do to ensure that forest policies
Alice discussed her experiences as a professional forester and her current work to mainstream gender in curricula of forestry
colleges in Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania; she has also designed a course on „Gender and Forestry‟. She said that overall
trends show a reduction in enrolment of foresters and fewer job opportunities, but noted that the scope for foresters‟ work is
Then, she posted some important questions: How to fit in as a woman, in situations where you don‟t belong to the forestry
community? Women should be part of the process, not present only due to the need for a statistic, as a token representative.
How to combine family and career? It is important for women to establish a balance between family and professional life.
She argued that women should not be hired because of being a woman, but because she is qualified. To be qualified,
education is needed. She proposed some recommendations:
1. Mainstream gender into forestry curriculum
2. Promote collection of disaggregated data on women and men
3. Mentor young professional women
4. Integrate gender in forestry issues; so pick information from here and disseminate to grassroots level
5. Organize interaction between grassroots and top level policy makers
6. Prepare yourself professionally to be equal with a man by developing skills to “fit in”; these skills include that of
Neria A. Anon, Forest Management Bureau of Philippines, talked of her experience of women‟s empowerment in the
forestry sector. Women have been exercising a greater control over forestry development in Philippines at all levels, from
policy making to the operational level. The empowered position of women in the government sector has enabled her country
to increase women‟s participation, benefit sharing and policy reforms. She provided data about women‟s participation at
every level (14 women out of 29 section chiefs, for example), which was a demonstration of successful gender
mainstreaming at the organizational level of the government. She also described a community-based poverty eradication
program with 103 livelihood projects, which will be monitoring women‟s participation within three different ecosystem
zones. There are local level teams to develop CFM in which women are represented. By meeting the goal of involving
women, the other goals can be met as well.
Yamile Tuhio Castillo shared her experiences as a woman forestry student in Bolivia She divided her presentation into two
parts: women in rural area and in urban area. According to her, it is difficult in her country to become a forestry professional,
even to be a student of forestry. She is the only female student in her class. She highlighted the difficulties of women
foresters due to discrimination in the work, the dominant idea in the society that women are fragile, the image of foresters as
“big, rude, rough, chainsaw bearing and very manly”, and the norm for women to be homemakers. She told of her own
experience traveling for a school field trip in the back of a truck with 47 men, and the complete lack of gender education in
her university. Given the hardships of women to study, work and build a career as a forester in such a situation, she stated
that it is important to establish mentoring systems among forestry and gender professionals.
The problems of rural women are worse: higher levels of discrimination, low education, little value given to their work, with
no capacity building and high levels of domestic violence. Yamile gave a recommendation to provide gender education at all
levels, targeted to both men and women, that would encourage us to link to rural women.
Amila Selmanagic, a youth delegate from Macedonia stated that “forestry is not very popular among girls: perhaps women
are physically fragile but they are smart. In Macedonia 20/80 % forestry students are female, but 48/52 % of the graduates
Gopa Pandey, Chief Conservator of Forest Department, Madhya Pradesh, India shared her notion that “efforts that are not
engendered are endangered”. Women foresters must give twice the effort to get half the credit. Only 3% of permanent
forestry officials are women, although the government target is 33 %. This target cannot be met, in part because in the Indian
forest environment, forest guards are often killed. No one wants to see women in this position, where rape is common.
There is need to change attitudes of women and men, but especially of men towards women in forestry related roles. There
have been numerous programs for awareness raising for women: the need is to now work on men. She suggested that:
Professional roles and domestic roles have to be addressed separately
Women stakeholders‟ roles must be specifically be addressed within forestry development
Monitoring and assessment is important to improve gender planning.
Forests are managed by women, The role of forests in the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) can be linked to women‟s
empowerment. We can address women‟s empowerment and gender equity.
A very lively and thought-provoking discussed followed these presentations.
Mathew Auer told how the US Forest Service has made gains in the last decade to improving women‟s role in forestry and
within the organization, but that despite the change taking place, there is long way to go. He stated that efficiency can be
achieved by promoting the third goal of the MDGs.
The President of Women‟s Foresters in Finland shared that her association of women foresters was founded 50 years ago.
They have been providing mentoring, networking to women forestry professionals giving also excursions, discussions etc.
She inquired amongst the audience if anyone knew of any other country with a similar organization, but no one did.
The male member of the Canadian delegation stated that gender is a key element of CIDA‟s programs. He encouraged all to
contact CIDA for information about the Global Conference Fund Information on www.acdi-cida.gc.ca. He also informed the
group that the Canadian delegation to the UNFF 5 would be interested to receive suggested language to insert into the text
being negotiated for the UNFF 5.
A forestry student from Bolivia and Germany stated her impression that females in forestry in Germany are more like men
than women – a fact that keeps many women from studying forestry.
A man of the Finland Nature League stated his belief that women are the PR people in forest companies who tell others that
there are no environmental threats.
An ENGO woman retorted that most of the privatization was done by men, but women should not continue the negative way
that was used earlier by men. We as women have just as much responsibility as men. Being female does not make anyone a
It was no surprise that the discussion continued as long as time allowed, on the nature of women and men, expectations of
women to act differently than men, etc. It came to an end with a summary point made by Jeannette, that trying to fit in
should not necessarily be the ultimate goal for women or men, but the goal is to fit in when it is appropriate for saving the
5. Side Event on HIV/AIDs with Major Group „Labor‟
Many of the forestry community are as yet unaware of the impact of HIV/AIDs on forests and those whose livelihoods are
directly dependent on them. This side event was jointly organized by Major Groups Labor and Women to highlight the
plight of forest workers, particularly women, who are affected by this disease.
Jeannette opened the event with some slides showing the extent of this disease in various countries in Asia and Africa,
highlighting the impact it is having on women. In order for the audience to gain an understanding of the enormity of this
crisis from an emotional perspective, she then read from parts of a speech by Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for
HIV/AIDS in Africa, delivered at the University of Pennsylvania's Summit on Global Issues in Women's Health,
Philadelphia, April 26, 2005:
Just a few weeks ago, I was in Zambia, visiting a district well outside of
Lusaka. We were taken to a rural village to see an "income generating
project" run by a group of Women Living With AIDS. They were gathered
under a large banner proclaiming their identity, some fifteen or twenty women,
all living with the virus, all looking after orphans. They were standing
proudly beside the income generating project ... a bountiful cabbage patch. After
they had spoken volubly and eloquently about their needs and the needs of their
children (as always, hunger led the litany), I asked about the cabbages. I
assumed it supplemented their diet? Yes, they chorused. And you sell the
surplus at market? An energetic nodding of heads. And I take it you make a
profit? Yes again. What do you do with the profit? And this time there was
an almost quizzical response as if to say what kind of ridiculous question
is that ... surely you knew the answer before you asked: "We buy coffins
of course; we never have enough coffins".
It's at moments like that when I feel the world has gone mad. I simply don't know how otherwise to characterize
what we're doing to half of humankind.
I want to remind you that it took until the Bangkok AIDS conference in
2004 --- more than twenty years into the pandemic --- before the definitive
report from UNAIDS disaggregated the statistics and commented, extensively upon the devastating vulnerability of
women. The phrase "AIDS has a woman's face"
And because I believe that, and because I see the evidence month after month, week after week, day after day, in
the unremitting carnage of women and AIDS ... these young young women, who crave so desperately to live, who
suddenly face a pox, a scourge which tears their life from them before they have a life ... who can't even get
treatment because the men are first in line, or the treatment rolls out at such a snail's pace ...who carry the entire
burden of care even while they're sick, tending to the family, carrying the water, tilling the fields, looking after the
orphans, the women who lose their property, and have no inheritance rights, and no legal or jurisprudential
infrastructure which will guarantee those rights.. no criminal code which will stop the violence ... because I have
observed all of that, and have observed it for four years, and am driven to distraction by the recognition that it will
continue, I want a kind of revolution in the world's response, not another stab at institutional reform, but a virtual
Within multilateralism, that is within the UN system, wherein lies the best hope for leadership, there must be a
change in the representation of women. We're looking towards the day when governments are finally made to
understand that women constitute half of everything that affects humankind, and must therefore be engaged in
Presenter 1: Dr. Alice Akinyi Kaudia
Alice presented “Nibbling Institutional training capacities: A Case for Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS in technical forestry
training curricula” to describe the course on HIV/AIDs taught in her forestry college in Zambia. A course on HIV/AIDs has
been designed and incorporated into the revised curricula, using consultative, sensitization and awareness creation
workshops. In addition, a HIV/Aids policy was drafted based on views from the workshops, and condoms are discretely
available. Extensive networking is done with other organizations ( FAO, CIFOR, USAID, local clinics, internet searches) to
obtain current information and disseminate to staff and neighbouring communities, and a Neighbourhood Health
Committee was formed to provide support to affected families and infected persons. Through this and sports clubs, there is
advocacy to promote voluntary testing, change in attitude and sexual behaviour and link proactively to the HIV/AIDs focal
point person in the Ministry to facilitate free access to medical services including ARVs by staff members.
Presenter 2: Inviolata Chinuangaraca
Inviolata is associated with the International Federation of Building and Wood Workers in Southern Africa, where she works
with woodworkers either working in forests or relying on it. She spoke of her knowledge of how HIV/AIDs affects young
girls and widows of woodworkers, who often lose their land when it is grabbed up by powerful men. This increases women‟s
work burdens significantly, as they must spend more time and energy finding food and medicine (and attending funerals).
The incomes and livelihoods of forest-dependent peoples are more and more affected by this disease.
Inviolata also spoke about the activities that her organization is undertaking to address these problems, by introducing
income generating schemes for women, and trying to convince workplaces to be more supportive. In areas where people
deny the reality of HIV/AIDs, awareness building is done, but high levels of illiteracy amongst woodworkers means that
brochures are not useful; drama has made an impact in some countries.
Both Alice and Inviolata think that education of peers and traditional leaders has the best chance of bringing about changed
behaviors. Worker to worker support groups have been found to affect local knowledge about HIV/AIDs and to overcome
social barriers to its recognition and treatment.
Forests provide emergency income, food and medicine for rural households affected by HIV/AIDs and malaria. The cruel
progression of this disease, ensuing social and economic disruption, excessive healthcare expenses, and the eventual loss of
family breadwinners can devastate household livelihoods. The loss of labor, knowledge and skills amongst the forest
workforce also affects household incomes and the forest industry.
In such circumstances, forests can help make ends meet through the sale of fuelwood and other products and services. Yet
through this health crisis, forest resources are being depleted at rapid levels in communities with high incidence of
HIV/AIDs and malaria.
6. Results and lessons
Despite the inputs by Major Group WOMEN to the plenary sessions, and formal inputs made to previous UNFF sessions,
experts meeting and country-led initiatives, the women‟s group was shocked to learn that the summary text of the Chair
made not a single reference to women or gender. Last minute lobbying with the female delegates of Switzerland and the US,
as well as some male delegates of Canada succeeded in getting a single reference to „women‟ inserted, but only in
conjunction with indigenous people. The suggestion made by Switzerland and supported by Guatemala read, “promoting the
active participation of Indigenous People, women and other forest-dependent groups in the development and implementation
of policies and programmes that affect them.” Though we did not originally desire to speak at the High Level Segment, this
experience made us realize that we needed to make a statement to voice our objection to what had transpired:
The major group statement of Women at the High Level Segment on May 25th
The integration of gender issues in the environment sector, in general, and in forestry in particular, has steadily declined at
the global level since the linkages were initially discussed in the 1980s. Ten years ago, almost every page of Agenda 21
included a statement on the role of women in sustainable development. In more recent negotiated texts, there are fewer
references to women and gender equality, and most of these refer to the role of women as contributors and as resources for
sustainable development, not to the importance of changing gender and power relations that impact development.
As one of the nine major groups, women were provided a formal space for engaging with the UNFF when it was established
by ECOSOC in 2000. With this new space, and a high profile global focus on poverty alleviation, some women and men who
support them began to see possibilities for change, to see a turn in the trend of neglecting the role of women at the global
level in SFM. This sense of optimism was heightened with the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Dr. Wangari Maathai, a
highly acclaimed and respected assistant minister of forestry and environment and women’s advocate who received a long
round of applause when she spoke here last week.
During this UNDFF, two side events organized by women have tried to raise awareness on the barriers faced by women
foresters, forestry students and community members, and on the horrific and alarming consequences of HIV/AIDS on forest
dependent women. The points made by participants there point to the need for structural changes within forestry
organizations to address gender equality.
And yet at the event where we had dared to hope for a change….we have yet to see more than a very few explicit statements
of support for and commitment to women and gender equality in relation to Sustainable Forests Management and the
International Arrangement on Forests. Despite the efforts of the Major Group Women over the past few years to draw
attention to these concerns within the UNFF sessions and inter- sessional meetings, and the commonly heard references to
poverty and the MDGs, we are disappointed that during this UNFF5, women have not been recognized as an integral part
within these deliberations.
Though the plight of women affected by HIV/AIDs, forest destruction and exploitation is alarming and demands immediate
attention, women as a group are more diverse than is suggested by a single reference to us in the Chairman’s text as a
category of forest-dependent people. We prefer to see ourselves as a vulnerable, disadvantaged group, but in a more
dignified way, as a group of forest managers and professionals whose rights and responsibilities in relation to the
sustainable management of the world’s forests have been curtailed by various socio-cultural and political factors.
Now is the time to ring in a change, to signal to the world the sincere interest of this forum to commit to poverty alleviation
and social justice, all under the banner of sustainable forest management. Towards this goal, we forge new paths by
engaging women as equal partners in sustainable forest management. We urge you to accept our offer sooner, rather than
later, for the sake of the world’s forests
We objected to this characterization as „forest dependent‟ people in a formal statement provided to the High Level Segment;
this tendency to see women as a category of helpless victims continues, despite the very numerous women in the room who
are foresters and country delegates. This provided us with a lesson for advocacy: having women there as delegates certainly
does not guarantee that we get women/gender onto the agenda, but relationships built with them makes it easy to get them to
insert language into the text (even if not exactly what we desired) when we approach them. But the biggest lesson is that we
need to physically be there, at the time and place this is happening. The cause is still much in need of champions, who are
not distracted by all the other issues and points that also need attention, but who can single-mindedly lobby for women and
And yet some countries did include these concerns in their formal statements, and these should be noted. The governments
of Lesotho, Lithuania, Nepal, India, Canada, the US, Sweden and South Africa have all voiced support for increasing
women‟s role in forestry policy development process and providing adequate technical and financial support for women‟s
participation. Some members of the CPF, notably FAO, expressed strong interest and support to develop pilot projects on the
ground in several countries. These countries and organizations may indeed be allies in our struggle to institutionalize gender
issues in the future International Arrangement on Forests.
The UNFF 5 session provided us with some valuable lessons, which can be summarized as follows:
women and gender issues are likely to be left out of the text preparation, despite the number of discussion papers,
statements by Women, number of women participants and visibility of us in the UNFF events.
Women professionals need to be more organized, at national, regional and global basis to strategically present their
views powerfully through government delegates
Women need champions within the UNFF bureau and secretariat to assure a positive outcome during the sessions
The presence of women should be more in number, in quality, and in diversity, as it is in the Indigenous Peoples
Forum of the UN
Major Group women delegates should come from all over the world to focus on women‟s concerns that cross cut
other agendas that they may represent, of other Major Groups such as youth, indigenous peoples, labor, and
science and technology.
Women should be considered as major stakeholders in forestry development and policy making, and not be seen
only as grassroots level stakeholders.
Successful cases of sustainable forest management by women should be presented to the policy makers.
Challenges should be discussed not only on technical tree plantation issues, but also more in relations to people,
both women and men.
The Major Group WOMEN should have a permanent structure within the UNFF mechanism so that it can produce
more of an impact in the future.
There should be more coordination among all Major Groups to integrate women-related aspects of forestry,
including those of technical, budgetary, health and employment issues in a more organized manner.
The knowledge of women, especially indigenous women, related to forests must be recognized for the benefit of
sustainable forest management.
The nexus of women, HIV/AIDS and forests is an extremely important and urgent issue that needs more analysis
Some very crucial moments that impressed me are shared below:
1. The UNFF Secretariat‟s Major Group Coordinator, Ghazal Badiozamani‟s support and encouragement to Major Groups,
her encouragement supported us to make united efforts throughout the sessions, despite facing major opposition from some
governments against civil society‟s involvement. Thanks go as well to Afsa Kemitale, Program Officer, for her valued
2. Nobel Peace Prize Laurate, Wangari Maathai‟s remarks that women are being neglected and they should be included at all
levels of forestry development process, discussions and benefit sharing was a strategic intervention. She shared her lessons
learned as: not to put short term economic gain ahead of long term vision. Much of what is happening with forestry today is
not having a long term vision of sustainable forest management, but merely meeting the short term needs. She spoke about
links between sustainable development, democracy and peace. She reminded us of how too often the degradation of the
natural world leads to conflict and war. Too often we see conflict arising from our mismanagement of our forests especially
when indigenous people and forest dependent communities are not freely consulted and asked for their consent. She
advocated for participation of all stakeholders to maintain a truly democratic culture by establishing transparency,
independent monitoring and holding governments accountable for their actions and commitments.
3. A statement by a Collaborative Partnership for Forests member: In the next couple of decades, the world is going to end
desperate poverty, $1 a day poverty, poverty that is dehumanizing and that kills. Agroforestry will play a key role in this.
The global forestry community needs to show the way by investing in an agro forestry that builds the tree and forest assets of
millions of smallholders and by doing so attacks poverty as it attacks the challenges of sustainable forest management.”
4. Jeannette Gurung‟s efforts on advocacy, by catching up the important personalities for women‟s rights as well as by
collecting voices of women around the hall, from every corner, every category and from within her own heart. She played a
very dynamic leadership role that accommodated interests of students, professionals, activists and government officers. It
was not easy for her to embrace and organize all the pieces of gender advocacy, beginning with women‟s rights to forest
land, going into the importance of forestry development policy in the context of HIV /AIDS issues and women‟s
organizational capacity building, needs of professional women foresters, etc..; The efforts should be given more priority by
UNFF in the coming days and should be mainstreamed into the UN efforts for poverty reduction strategies.
There are many more events and issues that touched me and motivated me to continue my advocacy work. At the same time,
there are some odd moments that really shocked me. The most significant one:
5. Cuba‟s direct protest against NGOs, civil society and Major Groups‟ participation, which was for me a very organized war
against breaking the trend of the UNFF to invite those other than government officers. I could not guess that even in such a
high level meeting things go in such a difficult manner that the Chair could hardly manage the situation. This was not a
healthy picture of Cuba and few others joining this effort to displace the important Major Groups from the scene. The most
disappointing fact was that despite protests from many governments, Cuba won its war to protect a very safe, monopolized
status of government decision making process in forestry development, which will impact the process of IAF.
In the end, although the Chair announced the promotion of regional partnership, collaboration among countries and also
accommodating all stakeholders‟ inclusion in IAF process by the UNFF, the NGOs, and civil society, Major Groups were
less convinced that the UNFF can adopt a transparent, accountable, democratic and participatory process in implementing
IAF for sustainable forest management for poverty reduction.