Securing Women’s Tenure and Leadership for Forest Management: A Summary of the Asian Experience
From the early 1980s onward, scholars and civil society activists have worked hard to alert us to the plight of women and their role in the sustainability of natural resource management (NRM). Since the evolution of Women in Development (WID) into Gender and Development (GAD) and subsequently Gender, Environment and Development (GED), considerable empirical evidence has been gathered which documents gender-related issues in the context of NRM.2In parallel to academic research and development, gender specialist positions, gender mainstreaming programs, gender training courses and tool kits, and gender divisions in bilateral aid organisations and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have appeared with the remit to put gender issues on the international development agenda.3 The evolution from WID to the more sophisticated GAD has helped to increase our understanding of the multitude of locally specific, complex and dynamic gender relationships worldwide. But despite more understanding, more resources and some policy changes, the ‘discursive landslide’ as Cornwall et al4 put it, has delivered limited change on the ground. Women continue to be largely marginalised and ignored or exploited in community based resource management processes, as do other marginalized groups and Indigenous Peoples (IPs). The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) has always argued that securing tenure and access rights to natural resources is a critical step towards achieving environmental and social justice. These issues have again become timely in relation to new forest sector initiatives for mitigation and adaptation to climate change, particularly Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) strategies and programs, posing a danger that past failures to address GAD will only be repeated in the new plans and interventions. In response to emerging challenges and opportunities in the NRM sector, RRI commissioned a series of papers, spotlight cases, and interviews with prominent women activists involved in NRM in Nepal, Cameroon, Indonesia, the Philippines and China to take stock of and better understand the diverse challenges faced by Asian women in relation to limited rights and insecure tenure.