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How EU timber trade deals can support women in tropical forests

Women in five tropical forest countries share their views on how timber trade deals between their countries and the EU could boost gender equity.

Norma Rodríguez

Norma Rodríguez. The first female President of the Honduran Federation of Agro-forestry Cooperatives. Rosamelia Núñez, EU FLEGT Facility.

Norma Rodríguez, the first female President of the Honduran Federation of Agro-forestry Cooperatives, hopes a timber trade deal her country has recently agreed with the EU will create a brighter future for women, but she knows it won’t be easy.

“It’s hard to change things because of the patriarchal culture that dictates that the man works in the field and the woman is weak,” she says, adding that through the new deal, “we hope for more opportunities to create jobs and for more women to work and improve our situation.”

Her views are echoed by To Kim Lien, Director of the Center for Education and Development, in Vietnam, which is also implementing a new timber trade deal with the EU. “If you go to a sawmill or into the forest, you mostly see men,” she says. “The participation of women is quite limited. In companies you also see mainly men, with women limited to roles like accountants.”

The deals that Honduras and Vietnam have agreed with the EU are called Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs), and they aim to address illegal logging and boost legal trade while improving forest governance. One way they do this is by creating space for people to have their say in decisions that affect them. This is crucial for women in tropical forest countries whose livelihoods are closely linked to forests but who have often been left out or ignored.

While some NGOs have criticised VPAs for not doing more for women sooner, a slew of activities are now underway in VPA countries across the tropics. A growing number of projects are assessing inequalities, identifying women’s needs and providing training to help ensure that women can participate in decision-making processes. And there are now some positive signs that VPAs have empowered women.

Read the full story on the EU FLEGT Facility website.

 

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