Celebrating women in leadership: experiences of women in the fight to protect the world’s rainforests
March 8, 2021
RFUK has long understood that women have a central role to play in protecting and managing the world’s rainforests. They are the main providers of food, water and medicine to their families, who depend greatly on rainforests for their livelihoods. They hold vast traditional knowledge of their forests and their biodiversity. This understanding informs our work and that of our partner organisations in Africa and Peru. We look to help women to defend their rights and to play a greater role in deciding how their traditional forests are managed.
This International Women’s Day, we want to recognise and celebrate the women who constitute a vital part of our workforce and partner network and who contribute significantly to the work we achieve together. We have spoken to some of them to find out more about their experience:
Bénitha is a field officer for our local partner GASHE working on RFUK’s ForestLink Real-Time Monitoring project in DRC. Having a female field officer has been hugely important in encouraging other women to participate in project activities. After seeing her in action, mothers in the communities where we work have said they do their best to keep their daughters in school “so they become like Mama Bénitha”, which is very rewarding for her.
Also in DRC, Geneviève Bolaboto is one of our partner APEM’s Bolukiluki observers who monitors whether the rights of communities living in or adjacent to protected areas, REDD+ programmes, and community forest concessions are being respected. She has explained that “the project is important for advocating for the rights of women, particularly in relation to their land and use of forest resources.” She also explained that in Civil Society Organisations in DRC, women often do not hold leadership positions, which are taken up by men. “I see some advances but there is still work to be done.”
Ines Gady Mvoukani works at Comptoir Juridique Junior (CJJ), in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Ines is a lawyer by training, and for nearly 15 years has served as legal assistant, program coordinator and forest and climate country associate. Ines explains that her experience as a woman in working on forest governance has not been easy: she has had to prove herself, as men find it difficult to accept women due to stereotypes and the burdens of the household that women must assume. “Today I can say that women have shown that they have appropriate skills and that their participation in the forest sector is becoming more and more vital, but there still not many of them. As a result, a great deal of capacity building must be done to have more women who put themselves forward and who take leadership positions in forest governance issues in the Republic of Congo”.
At RFUK in London, women make up more than 50 percent of the team and their contribution is invaluable.
Elin Roberts is RFUK’s GIS and Database Coordinator; she works as part of a small tech team responsible for supporting the development of RFUK mapping, GIS and monitoring software projects. Her work encompasses many diverse projects, be that monitoring deforestation in logging concessions from space, mapping community lands, or developing applications to communicate the wealth of RFUK’s data.
She told us that the most exciting thing about her job is “it’s never mundane and always changing; I particularly enjoy testing new and innovative ways of doing things”.
“Working at RFUK is great as there are so many female role models to learn and grow from”.
GIS and technology roles can often be male dominated so it is very encouraging and important to have female representation in the sector.
RFUK is proud to be working with strong women who in turn, are defying social expectations and encouraging other women to raise their voices and take up leadership positions.