Similarly, in Guyana, women make up 40% of the staff of the Forestry Commission and 45% of those employed in community forestry, according to Jocelyn Dow, Chairwoman of the Board of the Guyana Forestry Commission.
While women there credit the VPA process with helping to improve gender equity, they expect more gains are still to come. “The VPA opens a major door for greater involvement in decision making at a community level for women,” says Pradeepa Bholanath, Head of the Planning and Development Division at the Guyana Forestry Commission. “It is an exciting opportunity for women to be creative and fill in that gap.”
But increasing women’s participation in the forest sector is about more than equity. It also brings wider benefits, says Gertrude Nyaley — technical manager of the community forestry department at Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority. She says that in rural areas women have a better appreciation of the value of forests than men, as they depend on forests as sources of medicine and food. “So, when they are involved in making decisions, they are very clear and very keen that whatever change they will make will benefit the household, the children, the community at large,” she says. “Women are not selfish people.”
To Kim Lien of the Center for Education and Development, in Vietnam, agrees. “When I talk to people about the future of the country and about sustainability, women are way more interested,” she says. “Women look at things more holistically, so they consider the family and the community, not only business.
She says she sees young women in charge of small businesses who are learning about the VPA and trying to prepare to use it as way to reach international markets and develop their businesses. “A new generation of women is coming,” she says.