Opinion & Analysis

Mainstreaming Gender Equity in FSC’s work
Nancy Vallejo (Social South member)

Throughout its 20-year history, there is one aspect of the social, environmental and economic foundations of forestry that the FSC has ignored: gender equality.

zoom (© FSC A.C.) © FSC A.C.In the same two decades that other major international and multinational institutions and processes have increasingly recognized the need to tackle gender equality, the FSC has stood largely silent on the subject.

It took until 2012, with the newest version of the Principles and Criteria, to see gender equality specifically mentioned. Criterion 2.2 asks that organizations promote gender equality in employment practices, training opportunities, awarding of contracts, processes of engagement and management activities. For FSC, this is ground-breaking.

While the International Generic Indicators are in the process of approval, we have to recognize that these are rather new concepts in the world of FSC. Despite the progress this criterion implies, its effective implementation will require much effort to help the organization and its constituencies understand and address gender equality at all levels. A new strategic approach and commitment from the highest management level are needed to mainstream gender equity in FSC’s work.

Here’s a quick look at how gender equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment has been raised in other multinational, multi-stakeholder institutions globally over the same 20-year period.

United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA):

“Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men. To ensure fairness, strategies and measures must often be available to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field. Equity leads to equality. Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards. Where gender inequality exists, it is generally women who are excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources. Therefore a critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives. Gender equality does not mean that men and women become the same; only that access to opportunities and life changes is neither dependent on, nor constrained by, their sex.” (author emphasis)

Gender mainstreaming as key standard after 1995

In 1995, given the lack of progress in addressing fundamental rights, gender mainstreaming was proposed as a key strategy to reduce gender inequality at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Mainstreaming gender equality has since become an international priority. The United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) declared in 1997: “It is a strategy for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal spheres so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality.”

Since then, many organizations have developed their own gender strategies. Principles addressing gender equality have made their way to the highest level in the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations, development cooperation, and private sector and civil society organizations, as seen in the Millennium Development Goals, the outcome of the 2012 Rio +20, the Global Reporting Initiative, the Global Compact and many certification systems.

2010: UN Women / UN Global Compact – Women’s Empowerment Principles

In 2010, the UN Women / UN Global Compact – Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) partnership launched the CEO Statement of Support for the Women’s Empowerment Principles – Equality Means Business, which offered guidance to corporations for the empowerment of women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The seven Principles are:

  • Principle 1: Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality
  • Principle 2: Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and nondiscrimination
  • Principle 3: Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers
  • Principle 4: Promote education, training and professional development for women
  • Principle 5: Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women
  • Principle 6: Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy
  • Principle 7: Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

Other Organizations follow in 2013 strengthening gender equality

In 2013, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) produced a paper for the international conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition in Rome, stating:

  • 1. Forestry and agroforestry systems are not gender-neutral. Compared with men, women are frequently disadvantaged, for a range of interrelated cultural, socio-economic and institutional reasons, in their access to and control over forest resources and in the availability of economic opportunities.
  • 2. Women often have highly specialized knowledge of trees and forests in terms of their species diversity, management and uses for various purposes, and conservation practices. Compared with men, women’s knowledge tends to be linked more directly to household food consumption and health, which is particularly important during food crises.
  • 3. Women tend to play specific roles in forestry and agroforestry value chains.
  • 4. Empowering women in the forest sector can create significant development opportunities for them and generate important spill/over benefit for their households and communities.

Also in 2013 UN-REDD, WOCAN and USAID* produced Scoping Study of Good Practices for Strengthening Women’s Inclusion in Forest and Other Natural Resource Management Sectors, which highlighted the following key impediments to women in forestry and recommended actions to promote gender equality:

Key impediment Recommended actions
•Forestry is still very much associated with timber and men
•Women’s use of forests are deemed insignificant and passive
•Women’s exclusion is primarily as a result of socio-cultural factors
•Forestry institutions lack awareness of gender issues
•Women’s rights are not directly linked with property rights and customary rights
•There is a lack of champions for women’s rights.
•Combine women-only and mixed groups approaches
•Build the “business case” for women’s inclusion
•Invest in education and leadership training for women at 
all levels
•Raise awareness among both men and women of women’s exclusion and of the benefits of women’s inclusion
•Create more networking opportunities for women
•Governments, international organizations, and donors 
should create guidelines and requirements to support 
women’s inclusion
•Women’s inclusion should be part of forest certification systems as well as other standards
•Closer monitoring of funding expenditures is needed to
ensure resources allocated for women and women’s groups reach their target.

* UN-REDD = United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries; WOCAN = Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management; USAID = United States Agency for International Development

20 years down the line, this 2014 FSC General Assembly provides a unique opportunity to initiate the development and effective implementation of a strategy to mainstream gender equality.

The strategic planning process must ensure that gender equality receives all the necessary resources to bring real changes worldwide.