What is ‘gender-inclusive communication’ and how can it help empower women?

Gender activists from the region share experiences during Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) 2016

During Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) in the Philippines, 23-26 February 2016, AIPP, CIFOR, RECOFTC and FAO jointly explored ‘gender-inclusive communication’ and how it can help achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment (Sustainable development goal (SDG 5)).

Expert panelists - representing government, UN, a research institute, civil society organizations, and communities - viewed ‘gender-inclusive communication’ as using strategic communication approaches and tools to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the forestry sector. Each panelist presented on how they are using communication approaches to raise awareness on gender equity and to amplify the voices of indigenous and marginalized women in rural areas. They shared the ways they are using communication strategies for the advancement of gender inclusive change in forestry.

 

Key considerations for strategizing gender-inclusive communications 

Gender-inclusive communications take into consideration the differences in information access, generation and dissemination between men and women as per their level of literacy and locations of their frequent interaction and communications. Maria DeCristofaro, Communications and Outreach Officer for the Forestry Department, FAO, urged that a ‘gender check’ is necessary for all communication products to ensure that we do not reinforce negative gender stereotypes and that women are represented equally.

DeCristofaro emphasized that when strategizing communication, it is important to understand how women acquire and communicate information, and to use appropriate communication tools that effectively deliver messages to women.

How communication is being used in the region to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the forestry sector

Examples of gender-inclusive communications were shared, providing insights into the topic from various angles and experiences. Ciput Purwianti from the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia shared experiences on communicating the ‘Presidential Instruction 2000 on Gender Mainstreaming’. It was only through piloting of gender responsive planning and budgeting at the national level that concrete action (development of a gender website and e-learning channel for extension and service/workers) was finally taken to communicate and raise awareness on gender mainstreaming. In addition, Purwianti said that the Ministry has worked on empowerment and gender mainstreaming models at the grassroots level through an approach called Community Dialogue, which is integrated with the Child Friendly School Programme.

Cynthia Maharani from CIFOR elaborated on its strategy to mainstream gender into all research topics. CIFOR’s approach aims to improve the quality and volume of gender responsive research, leading to the empowerment of women and gender equality in decision-making, resource access and control, management and benefit sharing. Maharani noted that CIFOR has developed gender sensitive indicators for mainstreaming gender in REDD+ policies, provides information on gendered methodologies, and produces gender-specific publications looking at perceptions of men and women in natural resource management.

Joan Carling from AIPP shared how they are using communication to raise awareness on the double burden placed on indigenous women by promoting the untold stories of these ‘invisible women’. Carling emphasized that AIPP sees women as agents of change and thence mainstreams their participation in their advocacy approaches. AIPP has produced a variety of knowledge products on indigenous women, lands, forests and food security in the form of videos, infographic posters, and publications, including ‘HerStory,’ a publication that includes stories of indigenous women activists that has helped foster a stronger sense of solidarity among indigenous women activists.

Februanty Suyatiningsih, RECOFTC Indonesia country program, discussed the gender-inclusive communication approach of the REDD+ Grassroots Capacity Building Project. The project provides an enabling environment for women to enhance their capacities, through guaranteeing a minimum of 30% women’s participation in events, and ensuring that training venues and timing accommodate women’s availability. Suyatiningsih highlighted that the project includes initiatives at all levels to gather and communicate disaggregated data.

Sharing experiences on raising awareness at the grassroots level.

In the session, community representatives – Rupho Chodo from Thailand, and Yuliatin from Indonesia –– shared their experiences on using communication to empower women. Chodo, a Karen ethnic minority from Chiang Mai province, explained the key role of women in community forest management. She is promoting the need to involve indigenous women’s networks to ensure ancestral land rights of communities living in forest reserves.

Yuliatin shared what happened to her life after her participation in the REDD+ Grassroots Capacity Building Project, particularly her new-found role as a local facilitator to raise awareness on issues of climate change. Despite initial resistance from her husband and other community members, she is raising awareness on climate change issues at community institutions such as in Islamic classes.

Overall, participants concluded that gender-inclusive communication is a powerful tool that can be used strategically to achieve gender equality and empowerment through increased women's participation in sustainable forest management. Engaging women at different levels from household, village committee, regional and central government agencies is indispensable to achieve gender impacts. Thus effectives communication practices needs to be widely shared, promoted and adopted in forestry institutions and organizations in the region so that gender equality policies can become a reality.     

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