Lao uplifts strategy to build gender inclusion in forestry
21, October 2021
Lao decision-makers strengthened gender equality provisions in the country’s forest strategy and developed gender action plans with support from Sida’s funded WAVES initiative.
Notes from the Field
Nilapha Vorachith from the Department of Forest Inspection points to the gender survey results collected by the central and provincial offices of the department. She discussed the results with colleagues at a training RECOFTC organized.
Gender equality is one of the policy priorities for the government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR). The government integrated gender equality across ministries from the national to local level. Its Forest Strategy to the year 2020 was the first of its kind to embed provisions on gender inclusion. As part of this process, the government set up institutional mechanisms to work and report on gender disaggregated data. However, these policies and provisions face implementation gaps due to constraints in knowledge, capacities and coordination.
RECOFTC in Lao PDR organized a training on gender mainstreaming in forest resource management with the Department of Forestry from 26 to 28 August 2020 to address the gaps. The training was part of a series of workshops that RECOFTC organized through the Weaving Leadership for Gender Equality initiative, known as WAVES. The training supported decision-makers at the Department of Forestry (DOF) and Department of Forest Inspection (DOFI) to include and enhance gender equality provisions within the Forest Strategy to the year 2035 and other departmental actions.
The WAVES initiative is implemented in seven countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam.
In Lao PDR, WAVES is expanding and improving implementation of the existing gender policy through research and capacity building. It supports women and men who work in different government departments to lead on gender mainstreaming. The selected leaders identify, assess and solve for gender gaps they find in policies and within their institutions.
Over the past two years Nilapha Vorachith from DOFI participated in WAVES training. “I am the youngest in experience,” said Vorachith. "But after a year of learning and doing the work, I can confidently advocate for gender mainstreaming in my department.”
After participating in the training since 2019, the WAVES gender leaders initiated and cultivated organizational spaces to mainstream gender in forestry. A WAVES training cohort of five leaders from two departments under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and from Lao CSO FLEGT Network are now leading the policy and institutional reforms in their sector.
Khampheng Pongkham is a forester with the civil society organization Lao Biodiversity Association who participated in the WAVES training. He is also one of the WAVES gender leaders in Lao PDR. He applied his knowledge to improve gender equity provisions within the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), which is currently in negotiation between Lao PDR and the European Union. He contributed to the revisions of the national Forestry Strategy 2020 and the development of the Forest Strategy to the year 2035.
All WAVES leaders conducted surveys to examine the staff composition within their institutions and assessed the level of gender inclusion within the institutional training and events. They discussed the analysis within their teams during the workshop and with representatives from civil society and government agencies to raise awareness and mobilize joint action. The discussions created a more open space to continue dialogue between state and non-state actors on how to include gender equity in the forestry sector.
WAVES has built acceptance for integrating gender in work plans and programs in the Lao forestry sector. As the topic of gender equity is gaining importance in the sector, more women feel encouraged to participate in the technical work of state forestry agencies.
“I am very proud of my capacity and self-confidence to speak out about the needs for gender equity,” says Yommala Phaengsouvan, a WAVES leader at DOF. “I learned a lot from the training, and I am applying my skills to integrate gender equity in a new, flagship project for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, which is supported by the World Bank.”
The Voices for Mekong Forests (V4MF) project provided financial support to conduct the WAVES training. V4MF works to increase the capacity of non-state actors to engage in forest landscape governance in the Mekong region.
“The road to capacity building on gender equity can be years in the making, but very rewarding,” says Manilay Thiphalansy, program officer at RECOFTC Lao PDR, who implements WAVES and V4MF activities. “My work continues to support all of the participants of the training to apply their new knowledge to their work, overcoming the inevitable roadblocks that exist in the complex forestry sector in Lao PDR. They have made outstanding progress in just a few short years, and I can only imagine where the next few years will take them.”
This story is produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of RECOFTC and it does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union. To find out more about this and other activities under the EU-funded Voices for Mekong Forests, visit the project page.
The Weaving Leadership for Gender Equality (WAVES) initiative enhances leadership skills and supports the capacity of leaders to advocate for gender equality. RECOFTC implements WAVES with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). For more information on WAVES visit this page.
RECOFTC’s work is made possible with the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).