We explore the difficulty of achieving equity for women in two forest and livelihood restoration (FLR) pilot projects, one each in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Philippines. We use institutional bricolage as a framework to explain the context and background of stakeholders’ decision-making and the consequent impact on equity and benefit distribution. In the Philippines, material and institutional support was initially successful in assisting participants to establish small-scale tree plantations. A structured approach to institutional development has successfully evolved to meet the needs of women, even though corruption has re-emerged as a destabilizing influence. In PNG, despite success in establishing trees and crops, the participation of women was subjugated to traditional customs and norms that precluded them from engaging in land management decisions. The capacity-building and gender-equity principles of FLR consequently became compromised. We conclude that in some patriarchal societies achieving equity for women will be difficult and progress will be contingent on a detailed understanding of the effects of traditional customs and norms on participation and decision-making.