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Implementing a process to include women

The type of project
Project benefits
The eight steps

Once women's roles are visible and their knowledge about and dependence on tree and forest products recognized, ways to design and implement community forestry projects which include women become more apparent.

The type of project

Generally, projects work best when they include women as an integral part of their family or community group, while remaining sensitive to women's special needs and resources. However, occasionally "women only" activities are needed. Ruth Dixon has developed a list to help designers evaluate when a "women-only" project may be required:22

- when there are strong taboos against unrelated males and females working together;
- where the effects of past discrimination need to be overcome;
- where many or most households are headed by women;
- where women specialize in tasks that could be made more productive with outside help;
- where women request a measure of self-reliance to avoid conflict or competition with men.

A reforestation project in China. Between 1949 and 1978, China's forested area expanded from 5 to 12.7 percent of total land area

However, planning "women-only" activities may tend to isolate women and threaten their access to resources that men control. "Women-only" activities and projects can also be poorly funded and out of the mainstream of development activities. Some forestry projects that have a great-impact on the productive resource base upon which women depend, deal only with men.

In some cases a component such as improved fuelwood stoves is added for the sake of "including women". Care should always be taken to ensure that additional activities that are seen as being of interest to women do enter their priority areas of concern and do not exclude them from being considered in the project's main activities.

Project benefits

The main goal of including women in project design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation is to assure that they have access to benefits that they value and that they are able to manage the resource base in a sustainable manner. It is of central importance that any project ensures that those involved will, in fact, benefit.

Project designers have tended to believe that if the project benefits men, then women will see it as a benefit to themselves through a "trickle over" effect. This has frequently proven a faulty assumption. Women are short on time, land, and money.

Participation in a community forestry project may contribute to their burdens. Therefore, the benefits they will reap must be made very clear to them. Perceived equitable distribution of project benefits cannot be overestimated in analyzing participation and activity sustainability. It is especially important to consider needs of the women who are in the poorest segment of the villages, for whom forest resources can be crucial. Two questions to be answered: What is the potential impact of the project on women, and how can benefits for women be encouraged?

Women in Lesotho planting out saplings in a reforestation programme


Project planners and local women must communicate in a two-way process before the introduction of a new technology, whether it be a new tree species or a forest management plan. Women will have important insights as to how the technology may affect them.

The more clearly women's circumstances are understood and reflected in the project's design, and the more women are involved in the design process, the more positive the impact of the project can be.

Sorting seedlings in Thailand

Gender analysis, by its very nature, demands interaction of the researcher, women and men at the local level. Their interaction helps to strengthen the project planning process and ensure that any planned activity is appropriate given local conditions.


Women, as well as men, respond to incentives - larger production from annual crops, multi-purpose trees providing needed products, a market for produce such as fruit or wood poles, and potential for local employment. The incentive must, however, reflect women's financial realities. For example, seed may be more cost effective than seedlings.

Knowing about the control and use of cash within the family is crucial to understanding who will benefit from project income. In some households, women control their own money; in others, men control household funds. When the latter is the case, women may want to pool funds or set up cooperatives in order to retain control of income from their activities.

Women without legal rights to land have no collateral to offer to obtain loans for equipment, seed, or fertilizer. When loans are necessary and women have no collateral, other means for women to obtain credit must be found.

The eight steps

In summary, implementing a process to include women in project design includes the following eight steps. In Restoring the balance: women and forest resources, these steps were outlined for consideration in developing community forestry programs. These should be reviewed by project designers as well as project implementors to be sure their work will also help restore the balance.23

1. Explore gender issues through two-way communication with rural women, recognizing that the needs of women and men may not be the same and that the impact of projects on them may therefore be different.

2. Investigate customs, taboos and time constraints that women face: knowledge and common sense can go a long way to overcoming these constraints.

3. Promote the role that women do and can play in forestry activities at each level, and analyze the ways in which projects either include or exclude them.

4. Exchange information with individuals at every level, with local women on forestry activities, with practitioners on involving women in forestry, with policy makers on women's roles in forestry.

5. Support women's groups and encourage the formation of new ones that help women gain access to decision making and the political process, and strengthen women's support for one another.

6. Work together to provide access to land and trees recognizing customary and traditional women's holdings, ensuring women are included where land is privatized, and seeking creative solutions for landless women.

7. Consult with women before introducing new technologies or species ensuring that women's needs have been considered, and the impact of new techniques or trees on women's lives have been evaluated.

8. Collaborate to make credit and income available to women either individually, or through women's groups.

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