Integrating Gender into Community Forestry and Land Rights with REDD+
In June, representatives from local communities, civil society, and the government of DRC gathered in Kinshasa for a national workshop on the integration of gender into REDD+, community forestry, and land tenure practices.
This large-scale workshop was supported by DRC’s Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Women, Family and Children, and was organized by Coalition of Women Leaders for Environment and Sustainable Development (CFLEDD, national NGO), Rights, Resources Initiative (RRI), and WWF.
Despite the inclusion of gender in the REDD+ national framework strategy, and strong recommendations for action on gender issues by actors in the field, women in DRC still face barriers of information, resources, and access to land and tenure rights at the local level. At the national level, there is also a lack of clarity on gender in land tenure and forestry policies.
With the objective of strengthening the capacities of key actors on the relationship between gender and forest governance, this 4-day workshop was an opportunity to assess the situation of women facing the challenges of conservation and to develop a roadmap for a gender action plan in REDD+, community forestry, and land tenure rights in the DRC.
At the end of the discussions, participants agreed on four key areas of focus for future actions to integrate gender into forest governance practices: recognition of women’s land tenure and forest rights in national strategies and REDD+ pilot projects; recognition of women’s role in, and contribution to, traditional forestry customs; equitable access to resources including decision-making processes, productive resources, knowledge, and technology; and equitable access to funding and benefit sharing for women's entrepreneurship.
Better integration of gender into REDD+ programs is climate smart as well as just. “There is a link between land rights, resource rights, and climate change, and studies have shown that governments which encourage clarified tenure systems are in the best position to defend their case for REDD+ by aligning the incentives for investors with those of communities," stated the director of RRI’s Africa Program, Dr. Solange Bandiaky Badji. Ensuring women are able to claim their land and resource rights can improve tenure systems and assist broader community access to REDD+ initiatives and shared benefits.
Proud of the gender strategy it has been implementing in Salonga, Lac Tumba, Itombwe, and the Luki and Central Congo landscapes, WWF highlighted achievements in strengthening women’s access to land and tenure rights by supporting four women's associations in Oswhe, a territory in Maï-Ndombe. Marthe Labota, from the Association des Femmes Pygmées de Lokala (AFPL), spoke warmly of the support WWF had offered to the women in her community in all aspects of acquiring land tenure. Helping them overcome obstacles from mediating succession disputes to securing legal documentation and titling had empowered them to actively engage in the process, and, by extension, their community’s land management decisions.
However, customs and traditions were also identified as an obstacle to women’s participation, because they don’t always value men’s and women’s contributions equally, underscoring the need for the involvement of traditional leaders in discussions and decisions surrounding forest governance. Several traditional leaders present agreed, expressing a desire to be more involved in discussions that enable them to better integrate gender into decision-making.
"The customs and practices serve to maintain peace and social stability, us traditional authorities are sometimes wrongly accused. The best way is to share with us as a part of the REDD+ process to establish a partnership... we do not often have the real information, never mind that we are open to change as long as it does not disturb peace," said Nsengambo, chief of Bobangi, a village in the Inongo territory of Maï-Ndombe province, during the thematic workgroup on capacity building, access to information, and partnerships with traditional leaders.
WWF supports the inclusion of gender issues in conservation, and this workshop was an opportunity to share experiences and achievements, as well as present important information to stakeholders about equity and the consideration of gender. "Information can change a whole community; we must ensure the education and promotion of youth education in the gender perspective for a change of mentality and behaviour at the local level," stated WWF-DRC’s Gender Officer Marguerite Nzuzi, highlighting that access to information remains the biggest obstacle.
Ensuring that women’s tenure rights are legally recognised and taken into account in customary decision making processes is an important focus of WWF’s work in the DRC. We work with ministries to make sure they take gender into account in their sectors; disseminate knowledge about the legal texts on gender, community forestry, REDD+, and land tenure; and build capacities of indigenous peoples and local communities so they can better include gender in forest and land use decisions.
The presence of all stakeholders – government and traditional authorities, civil society, technical and financial partners – in this highly informative and participatory meeting was a strong signal for the acceptance of gender integration into conservation and forest governance strategies.
Indeed, during the workshop Robert Bopolo Bogeza, the Minister of Environment, committed to formally integrate gender into REDD+, community forestry, and land tenure. In July, he signed an official memo which prohibits the discrimination of women and ensures their rights in the establishment of local communities’ forest concessions management structures.
Bruno Perodeau, Director of Conservation for WWF-DRC, said he was “proud of our partners for making a courageous commitment to develop a common understanding on the gender issue and propose measures allowing for integration, and taking effective account, of women in the management of natural resources, conservation, and land reform in the DRC."