- We now have women who are participating in elections in the community, and we have women who are serving some positions, even though not enough.
-Making women key to forest governance
The Foundation for Community Initiatives (FCI) is seeking more women participation in forest governance. This follows years of workings and engagements in the forest sector.
However, the Executive Director FCI, while outlining success stories and challenges confronting women’s role in the management of the forest, especially in forestry governance structures has emphasized the need for more women participation.
The FCI was founded in 2004 as a community-based organization in Grand Bassa County by a group of trained development workers and human rights activists under the auspices of the Development Education Network – Liberia (DEN-L).
Speaking in an interview in Monrovia, Executive Director Madam Loretta Alethea Pope Kai said one of the biggest successes of the organization in the past five to six years has been increased women’s participation in forest governance issues.
“Over the years we have been working closely with the National Union of Community Forest Development Committee (NUCFDC) and National Union of Community Forest Management Body (NUCFMB) to strengthen women’s leadership in these various governance institutions. Some of the ways we have been supporting is by building their capacities on the different laws such as the National Forestry Reform Law of 2009 and the Community Rights Law and Regulation of 2017,” said Madam Pope Kai.
She explained that at the level of the Community Forest Development Committee (CFDC) from 2015 to now, FCI has observed acceleration or interest of women growing by the day and they have increased in numbers due to numerous training over the years.
“So, one of the successes we can give is that women are not just sitting around the palaver hut and just observing men making decisions about their natural resources. We now have women who are participating in elections in the community, and we have women who are serving some positions, even though not enough. But at least we can say that there are lots of women in decision-making positions in the forest sector to ensure how our resources are governed and managed. We now have women like Vice President for Operations at community assemblies.”
However, Madam Pope Kai said there are also numerous challenges as women’s participation in forest governance in some communities remains taboo due to cultural beliefs.
She indicated that there are still some quarters where a certain group of people still believes that only men are supposed to make decisions or sit around the table for major discussions.
“We have some women in some communities that don’t attend these functions because the places where these meetings are held are only meant for men. They are held in places that are forbidden for women to enter – it might be at some traditional function or at an area where only men are allowed,” she added.
In a bid to addressing this, the FCI boss disclosed that the organization has embarked on educating traditional leaders and men to change their mindset.
“This is happening because they don’t have the rightful information. We are giving them the real information because when they are educated, they will readjust from that kind of thinking,” she furthered.
Madam Pope Kai narrated that one of the major challenges has been women’s own understanding about forest governance that one needs to be lettered before he/she participates in discussions around forest management issues.
“We find out that most women don’t want to participate because they think participating in these governance structures you have to be educated. Their understanding about education is that you must know how to read and write, and so we are trying to erase that notion; that fear so that they can know that you can participate even if you are not educated. It’s not by you reading or writing, it’s about the idea that you bring to the table,” she stated.
Speaking on the upcoming election of the Community Forest Development Committee (CFDC), the Liberian forest sector advocate disclosed that FCI has been working with the National Union of Community Forest Development Community (NUCFDC) to catalog the number of women participants so as to provide training and mentorship for them to better equip them for the process. “After the training, we will provide further refresher training for them and provide mentorship that will lead them into the elections. And after the electoral process, we will do an analysis of the entire process to know how many women participated and how many were elected,” added Madam Pope Kai.