- A new vision for managing forests requires the bringing together of all of the community members who benefit from forests and forest resources.
- Both communities and outside institutions need to reflect critically on their actions, activities and gendered assumptions regarding forests.
- Political leadership and effective governance need to be addressed more broadly, not just only from a gender perspective. Indeed, efforts to address women’s participation may be ineffective without efforts to address local governance and accountability – a valuable hypothesis for future research.
- Although most of the state agencies and NGOs studied had some kind of gender policy or strategy, very few promoted indigenous women’s participation in decisions related to natural resources or forests.
- Even in communities where women believe they have influence over many important decisions, they do not have similar influence over forest-related decisions.
- Lack of confidence in local authorities has paralyzed the participation of both men and women community members. Thus, efforts to address women’s participation may be ineffective if local governance and accountability are not addressed.
- Both communities and outside institutions need to reflect critically on their assumptions regarding women’s and men’s roles and responsibilities in respect to forests, and design and monitor specific strategies to support women’s effective participation.
The following reflections and recommendations emerged from undertaking this study:
1. Factors that promote women’s participation in decision-making:
- Knowledge, by both women and men, of the laws that promote equal participation of women in government
- Relatively high education or capacity, which includes speaking at least two languages (native and Spanish)
- Relatively high level of awareness among men regarding women’s participation and the differing gender roles in these contexts
- Women’s organizations taking a role in establishing precedents and creating arenas for exchange among women.
2. Factors that impede women’s participation in decision-making:
- Few community assemblies, which also limits community participation in general
- Community assemblies that are unwelcoming to women
- Domestic work and the lack of initiative among men to share domestic chores
- Prohibitions, by male partners or spouses, of women taking part in community activities
- Avoidance of conflict and meetings associated with national politics (which exacerbate divisions related to political party affiliation)
- Risk of social punishment (gossip, innuendo, sexual slurs and criticism)
- Domestic violence.
3. Factors that impede women’s participation in forest resource decisions specifically:
- Negotiations that are limited to certain interest groups (which can exclude women unless they are part of the leadership and speak Spanish)
- Association of forests with men’s work (and religious beliefs that tend to reinforce women’s traditional domestic roles)
- Risks of travel (unescorted over long distances) or of conflict-ridden or dangerous situations (e.g. addressing land invasions)
- Lack of knowledge about forest policy or management issues.