Women in REDD critical for climate action

Cancun, Mexico. Women must be included in all international efforts to save the world’s remaining forests and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 17%, according to IUCN.

IUCN spokesperson Carole Saint Laurent speaking at the 'women in REDD' event, UNFCCC Cancun

A new gender initiative, launched by IUCN and partners at the UN climate summit in Cancun, aims to ensure that women are an integral part of negotiations on REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation), an international process that seeks to reduce the effects of climate change due to the logging and mismanagement of forests.

“Political will for REDD exists, but donors sponsoring REDD initiatives still do not mainstream gender in projects on the ground even though they have mandate – and hence obligation – to do so,” says Lorena Aguilar, Global Senior Advisor on Gender for IUCN.

Pilot REDD projects in 40 developing countries are already under way, and as a result of last year’s climate change talks in Copenhagen, the international community started working towards a global REDD deal. Women again are the missing link despite their critical role in climate action, according to IUCN.

Women make up 70% of the world’s poor and provide up to 90% of the food in forest-dependent communities. They depend on forest resources for gathering fuelwood, forest fruits, vegetables and medicines. In many rural societies, it is only the women who have accumulated the traditional knowledge about the food and other household products that forests supply.

Current REDD+ initiatives state the need to engage indigenous peoples and local communities, but do not recognize the differentiated needs of women and men within communities, according to IUCN and its partners in the initiative, Women’s Economic Development Outreach (WEDO) and Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOMEN).

“A typical village in the countries we work with is composed of men with rights to land and women who have ‘courtesy’ land and forest access through their husbands, but no rights," says Consuelo Espinosa, IUCN’s Senior Forests and Climate Change Officer. “Because women do not necessarily own forest lands, they are often excluded from discussions about how forest should be managed at community level. What worries us is that there is a risk that women would also be excluded from REDD payment schemes for the same reason, “ she adds.

In the Pacific, women often have the right to utilize breadfruit even though the tree itself is the province of men, who use it as a source of wood for furniture and canoes. In Nigeria, women may have rights to the kernel but not to the oil of the palm which is often sold as a cash crop.

“We know that community leaders often neglect women’s issues, and that women leaders are either not offered a seat at the decision-making table or are ill-prepared to participate effectively if given the opportunity,” explains Lorena Aguilar. “So if REDD+ is to impact positively on the forest-dependent poor, governments should make sure that women, whose livelihoods depend mostly on forest resources , get an equal share of benefits from REDD.


The Global Initiative on REDD+ and Gender Equality is jointly launched by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Women’s Economic Development Outreach (WEDO) and Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOMEN). Delegates attending the launch event, hosted by the Government of Norway and entitled “The missing link to success: Women in REDD” will wear red to show their solidarity for the “Women in REDD” campaign.


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