Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: July 2020

6 - Tackling Gender Inequality through Forest-Related Policies and Programmes

from Part I - Wicked Problems and Policies


Addressing gender inequality is a core goal in the global development agenda. Gender inequality in forest landscapes is a ‘wicked problem’, where deep-seated socioeconomic and ideological causes are difficult to recognize and address, not only because they are context- and culture-specific across and even within countries, but also because they involve multiple (male and female) stakeholders with different and sometimes conflicting interests and different positions within power hierarchies. The alliances and tensions inherent in such complex stakeholder relationships may work with or against other desirable forest outcomes, and defy simple or superficial solutions. In this chapter, three forest policies are examined through the lens of gender equality: the devolution of forest management to local communities; payments to communities for sustaining forest-based global public goods; and forest certification. These policies have generated positive gender equality outcomes, but these also (re)produce gender discrimination through formal and informal institutions. More holistic approaches are required to address gender inequality in forest policies, which directly target gender and social relations, and strengthen women’s participation in forest governance.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Agarwal, B. 2001. Participatory exclusions, community forestry, and gender: an analysis for South Asia and a conceptual framework. World Development 29(10):16231648.
Agarwal, B. 2002. The hidden side of group behaviour: a gender analysis of community forestry groups. Pages 185208 in Heyer, J., Stewart, F., and Thorp, E., editors. Group Behaviour and Development: Is the Market Destroying Cooperation? Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Agarwal, B. 2009. Gender and forest conservation: the impact of women’s participation in community forest governance. Ecological Economics 68(11):27852799.
Agarwal, B. 2010. Gender and Green Governance: The Political Economy of Women’s Presence within and beyond Community Forestry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Agarwal, B. 2015. The power of numbers in gender dynamics: illustrations from community forest groups. The Journal of Peasant Studies 42(1):120.
Agrawal, A. and Gibson, C. C.. 1999. Enchantment and disenchantment: the role of community in natural resource conservation. World Development 27:629649.
Agrawal, A., Chhatre, A. and Hardin, R.. 2008. Changing governance of the world’s forests. Science, New Series 320(5882):14601462.
Alford, J. and Head, B. W.. 2017. Wicked and less wicked problems: a typology and a contingency framework. Policy and Society 36:397413.
Andersson, K. and Agrawal, A.. 2011. Inequalities, institutions, and forest commons. Global Environmental Change 21(3):866875.
Ansell, C. and Gash, A.. 2008. Collaborative governance in theory and practice. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 18(4):543571.
Arwida, S. D., Maharami, C. D., Sijapati Basnett, B. and Yang, A. L.. 2017. Gender-Relevant Considerations for Developing REDD+ Indicators: Lessons Learned for Indonesia. CIFOR Info Brief 168. Bogor: CIFOR.
Baland, J. M. and Platteau, J. P.. 1999. The ambiguous impact of inequality on local resource management. World Development 27(5):773788.
Bee, B., Rice, J. and Trauger, A.. 2015. A feminist approach to climate change governance: everyday and intimate politics. Geography Compass 9(6):339350.
Bee, B. and Sijapati Basnett, B.. 2016. Engendering social and environmental safeguards in REDD+: lessons from feminist and development research. Third World Quarterly 38(4):787804.
Benerìa, L., Floro, M., Grown, C. and MacDonald, M.. 2000. Introduction: globalization and gender. Feminist Economics 6(3):viixviii.
Berkes, F. 2009. Evolution of co-management: role of knowledge generation, bridging organizations and social learning. Journal of Environmental Management 90(5):16921702.
Biermayr-Jenzano, P., Kassam, S. N., and Hassan, A. W.. 2014. Understanding Gender and Poverty Dimensions of High Value Agricultural Commodity Chains in the Souss-Masaa-Draa Region of South-Western Morocco. ICARDA working paper. Amman: ICARDA.
Blaikie, P. 2006. Is small really beautiful? Community-based natural resource management in Malawi and Botswana. World Development 34(11):19421957.
Bos, A.B., Duchelle, A. E., Angelsen, A., et al. 2017. Comparing methods for assessing the effectiveness of subnational REDD plus initiatives. Environmental Research Letters 12(7):112.
Chandhoke, N. 2003. Governance and the pluralisation of the state: implications for democratic citizenship. Economic and Political Weekly 38(28):29572968.
Chant, S. 2016. Women, girls and world poverty: empowerment, equality or essentialism? International Development Planning Review 38(1):124.
Chant, S. and Sweetman, C.. 2012. Fixing women or fixing the world? ‘Smart economics’, efficiency approaches, and gender equality in development, Gender & Development 20(3):517529.
Cleaver, F. 2002. Reinventing institutions: bricolage and the social embeddedness of natural resource management. The European Journal of Development Research 14(2):1130.
Coleman, E. A. and Mwangi, E.. 2013. Women’s participation in forest management: a cross-country analysis. Global Environmental Change 23:193205.
Corbera, E., Kosoy, N. and Martinez Tuna, M.. 2007. Equity implications of marketing ecosystem services in protected areas and rural communities: case studies from Meso-America. Global Environmental Change 17:365380.
Dey de Pryck, J., Elias, M. and Sijapati Basnett, B.. 2019. Globalization and employment in forests and tree value chains: are women losing out? Pages 347380 in Farcy, C., Martinez de Arano, I., and Rojas-Briales, E., editors. Forests in the Midst of Global Changes. Oxford, UK: Taylor and Francis.
Dey de Pryck, J. and Termine, P.. 2014. Gender inequalities in rural labor markets. Pages 343370 in Quisumbing, A., Meinzen-Dick, R., Raney, T., Croppenstedt, A., Behrman, J. A. and Peterman, A., editors. Gender in Agriculture. Closing the Knowledge Gap. Rome: FAO and Springer.
Djoudi, H. and Brockhaus, M.. 2011. Is adaptation to climate change gender neutral? Lessons from communities dependent on livestock and forests in northern Mali. International Forestry Review 13(2):123135.
Doss, C., Kieran, C. and Kilic, T.. 2017. Measuring Ownership, Control, and Use of Assets. Policy Research Working Paper 8146. Washington, DC: World Bank.
Dunaway, W.A. 2014. Gendered Commodity Chains: Seeing Women’s Work and Households in Global Production. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Eilenberg, M. 2015. Shades of green and REDD: local and global contestations over the value of forest versus plantation development on the Indonesian forest frontier. Asia Pacific Viewpoint 56(1):4861.
Elgert, L. 2012. Certified discourse? The politics of developing soy certification. Geoforum 43(2):295304.
Elias, M. 2010. Transforming Nature’s Subsidy: Global Markets, Burkinabè Women and African Shea Butter. PhD Dissertation, McGill University, Montreal.
Elias, M. and Arora-Jonsson, S.. 2016. Negotiating across difference: gendered exclusions and cooperation in the shea value chain. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 35(1):107125.
Elmhirst, R. J., Siscawati, M., Sijapati Basnett, B. and Ekowati, D.. 2017. Gender and generation in engagements with oil palm in East Kalimantan, Indonesia: insights from feminist Political Ecology. Journal of Peasant Studies 44(6):11351157.
Esquivel, V. 2016. Power and the sustainable development goals: a feminist analysis. Gender and Development 24(1):923.
Evans, K., Larson, A. M., Mwangi, E., et al. 2014. Field Guide to Adaptive Collaborative Management and Improving Women’s Participation. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research. Available at:
FAO. 2015. Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015. How Are the World's Forests Changing? 2nd edition. Rome: FAO.
Farcy, C., De Camino, R., Martinez de Arano, I. and Rojas-Briales, E.. 2016. External drivers of changes challenging forestry: political and social issues at stake. Pages 87105 in Larocque, G. R., editor. Ecological Forest Management Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group.
Gilmour, D. 2016. Forty Years of Community-Based Forestry: A Review of Its Extent and Effectiveness. Rome: FAO.
Hardin, G. 1993. Living within Limits: Ecology, Economics, and Population Taboos. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hegde, N., Elias, M., Lamers, H. A. H. and Hegde, M.. 2016. Engaging local communities in social learning for inclusive management of native fruit trees in the Central Western Ghats, India. Forests, Trees and Livelihoods 1:6583.
IFC. 2016. Investing in Women along Agribusiness Value Chains. Washington, DC: International Finance Corporation, World Bank Group.
Indrarto, G.B., Murharjanti, P., Khatarina, J., et al. 2012. The Context of REDD+ in Indonesia: Drivers, Agents and Institutions. Working Paper 92. Bogor: CIFOR.
Julia, J. and White, B.. 2012. Gendered experiences of dispossession: oil palm expansion in a Dayak Hibun community in West Kalimantan. Journal of Peasant Studies 39:9951016.
Kasente, D. 2012. Fair Trade and organic certification in value chains: lessons from a gender analysis from coffee exporting in Uganda. Gender & Development 20(1):111127.
Khadka, M., Karki, S., Karky, B. S., Kotru, R. and Darjee, K. B.. 2014. Gender equality and challenges to REDD+ initiative in Nepal. Mountain Research and Development 34(3):197207.
Kleinschmit, D., Sijapati Basnett, B., Martin, A., Rai, N. D. and Smith-Hall, C.. 2015. Drivers of forests and tree-based systems for food security. Pages 87110 in Vira, B., Wildburger, C. and Mansourian, S., editors. Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition. A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series 33. Vienna: IUFRO.
Kumar, K., Singh, N. M. and Kerr, J. M.. 2015. Decentralisation and democratic forest reforms in India: moving to a rights-based approach. Forest Policy and Economics 51:18.
Larson, A. M., Dokken, T., Duchelle, A. E., et al. 2015. The role of women in early REDD+ implementation: lessons for future engagement. International Forestry Review 17(1):4365.
Larson, A. M., Solis, D., Duchelle, A. E., et al. 2018. Gender lessons for climate initiatives: a comparative study of REDD+ Impacts and subjective wellbeing. World Development 108:86102.
Le Mare, A. 2008. The impact of Fair Trade on social and economic development: a review of the literature. Geography Compass 2(60):19221942.
Leisher, C., Temsah, G., Booker, F., et al. 2016. Does the gender composition of forest and fishery management group affect resource governance and conservation outcomes? A systematic map. Environmental Evidence 5(6):110.
Lewark, S., George, L. and Karmann, M.. 2011. Study of gender equality in community based forest certification programmes in Nepal. International Forestry Review 13(2):195204.
Li, T. 2015. Social Impacts of Oil Palm in Indonesia: A Gendered Perspective from West Kalimantan. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research.
McCarthy, J. F. 2012. Certifying in contested spaces: private regulation in Indonesian forestry and palm oil. Third World Quarterly 33(10):18711888.
McDougall, C., Ojha, H., Banjade, M., et al. 2008. Forests of Learning: Experiences from Research on an Adaptive Collaborative Approach to Community Forestry in Nepal. Bogor: Center for International Forestry Research.
Meinzen-Dick, R., Quisumbing, A., Behrman, J., et al. 2012. Engendering Agricultural Research, Development, and Extension. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute.
Mukasa, C., Tibazalika, A., Mwangi, E., et al. 2016. Strengthening Women’s Tenure Rights and Participation in Community Forestry. InfoBrief No. 155. Bogor: Centre for International Forestry Research.
Mukhopadhyay, L. 2004. Inequality, differential technology for resource extraction and voluntary collective action in commons. Ecological Economics 49(2):215230.
Mwangi, E. 2007. Subdividing the commons. Distributional conflict in the transition from collective to individual property rights in Kenya’s Maasailand. World Development 35(5):815834.
Myers, R, Larson, A. M., Ravikumar, A., et al. 2018. Messiness of forest governance: How technical approaches suppress politics in REDD+ and conservation projects. Global Environmental Change 50:314324.
Nightingale, A. J. 2002. Participating or just sitting in? The dynamics of gender and caste in community forestry. Journal of Forestry and Livelihoods 2(1):1724.
North, D. C. 1991. Institutions. Journal of Economic Perspectives 5(2):97112.
Peach Brown, H. C. 2011. Gender, climate change and REDD+ in the Congo Basin forests of Central Africa. International Forestry Review 13(2):163176.
Pérez-Cirera, V. and Lovett, J. C.. 2006. Power distribution, the external environment and common property forest governance: a local user groups model. Ecological Economics 59(3):341352.
Poteete, A. and Ostrom, E.. 2004. Heterogeneity, group size, and collective action: the role of institutions in forest management. Development and Change 35(3):435461.
Razavi, S. 2016. The 2030 Agenda: challenges of implementation to attain gender equality and women’s rights. Gender and Development 24(1):2541.
Razavi, S. and Miller, C.. 1995. From WID to GAD: Conceptual Shifts in the Women and Development Discourse. Occasional Paper 1. Geneva: UNRISD.
Rice, J. 2010. Free trade, fair trade and gender inequality in less developed countries. Sustainable Development 18:4250.
Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). 2012. What rights? A comparative analysis of developing countries’ national legislation on community and indigenous peoples’ forest tenure rights. Washington, DC.
Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). 2014. What Future for Reform? Progress and Slowdown in Forest Tenure Reform since 2002. Washington, DC: Rights and Resources Initiative.
Röling, N. G. and Jiggins, J.. 1998. The ecological knowledge system. Pages 281301 in Röling, N.G. and Wagemakers, M. A. E., editors. Facilitating Sustainable Agriculture. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Sarin, M. 2001. Empowerment and disempowerment of forest women in Uttarakhand, India. Gender, Technology and Development 5(3):341364.
Sarker, D. and Das, N.. 2002. Women’s participation in forestry: some theoretical and empirical issues. Economic and Political Weekly 37(43):44074412.
Sen, A. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Sen, A. 2000. Social Exclusion: Concept, Application and Scrutiny. Social Development Papers No. 1. Manila: Office of Environment and Social Development, Asian Development Bank.
Sijapati Basnett, B., Gyncy, S. and Anandi, C. A. M.. 2016. Transforming the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil for Greater Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment. Information Brief 166. Bogor: CIFOR.
Smaller, C., Sexsmith, K., Potts, J. and Huppé, G.. 2016. Promoting Gender Equality in Transnational Agricultural Investments: Lessons from Voluntary Sustainability Standards. Paper presented at the 2016 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, Washington DC.
Smith, S. 2013. Assessing the gender impacts of Fairtrade. Social Enterprise Journal 9(1):102122.
Stiem, L. and Krause, T.. 2016. Exploring the impact of social norms and perceptions on women’s participation in customary forest and land governance in the Democratic Republic of Congo: implications for REDD+. International Forestry Review 18(1):110122.
Stuart, E. and Woodroffe, J.. 2016. Leaving no-one behind: can the Sustainable Development Goals succeed where the Millennium Development Goals lacked? Gender and Development 24(1):6981.
Sunderland, T., Achdiawan, R., Angelsen, A., et al. 2014. Challenging perceptions about men, women, and forest product use. A global comparative study. World Development 64:5666.
UN Women. 2014. World Survey on the Role of Women in Development 2014: Gender Equality and Sustainable Development. New York: UN Women Institutional Report, UN Women.
UN-REDD. 2011. The Business Case for Mainstreaming Gender in REDD+. Geneva: UN-REDD Programme Report, UN-REDD.
Upadhyay, B. 2005. Women and natural resource management: illustrations from India and Nepal. Natural Resources Forum 29(3):224232.
Varughese, G. and Ostrom, E.. 2001. The contested role of heterogeneity in collective action: some evidence from community forestry in Nepal. World Development 29(5):747765.
Vira, B. 2005. Deconstructing the Harda experience: limits of bureaucratic participation. Economic and Political Weekly 40(48):50685075.
Vira, B., Wildburger, C. and Mansourian, S.. 2015. Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition. A Global Assessment Report. IUFRO World Series 33. Vienna: IUFRO.
Westholm, L. and Arora-Jonsson, S.. 2015. Defining solutions, finding problems: deforestation, gender, and REDD+ in Burkina Faso. Conservation and Society 13(2):189199.
World Bank. 2012. World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development. Washington, DC: World Bank.