Yubaraj Kandel

Mr. Kadel has been working in the field of environment and development for two decades. Currently, he is a Ph.D. Scholar at LBU.

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The Constitution of Nepal considers adherence to the principles of proportionality, participation, and inclusion as the basis for building a prosperous and just society. The rights of women enshrined in Article 38 of the Constitution have also provided women with the facility of proportional participation and positive discrimination. Many policy and legal provisions have been made to ensure the participation and role of women in all spheres. Efforts for gender equality and women's empowerment, which started in the Sixth Plan (2037-2043 BS) of Nepal.

Since then, it have been included in all periodic plans, annual plans, and policies with priority. According to Nepal Human Development Report 2020, Nepal's Gender Development Index is 0.886. Women's participation in the political and social sectors is gradually increasing. At present, 41 percent of women have been elected at the local level, 34 percent in the state assembly, and 33.5 percent in the federal legislature. There is 23 percent of women working in the civil service which attracts many educated people.

There is 23 percent of women working in the civil service which attracts many educated people. However, in terms of numerical participation, the presence of women in community forests is good with 53 percent.

However, in terms of numerical participation, the presence of women in community forests is good. Based on the number of community forest members, 53 percent are women. Numerically, the number of women in community forests is high and women have reached the central leadership of the Community Forest Federation ( FECOFUN).



The most successful program in natural resource management is community forest. The community forest program, which was started to conserve the forest and help them in their livelihood by involving the community, has now spread across the country as a powerful campaign. According to the latest statistics of the Forest Department, 22 thousand 682 community forest groups have been formed and handed over in Nepal.

In all the districts of Nepal, the community forest group is managing 24 lakh 90 thousand 194 hectares of forest. The Community Forest Program has not only rendered invaluable services to Nepal's forest conservation, wildlife expansion, soil erosion control, environmental protection, and easy availability of firewood but is also making significant contributions to livelihood, social development, and awareness-raising. Statistically, community forests represent all classes and genders, so it seems that democratic practices are taking place there, but in practice, the situation of gender inclusion is very poor in such forests.

Women, the poor, Dalits, and ethnic group are closer to the forest. Due to their dependence and need on the forest, they are more responsible towards the forest. Since the management of community forests is not possible without the participation of these gender, class, and ethnic groups and without their participation, the participation of these groups in the formation, management, and use of community forest groups has been accepted as a basis of policy.

Community participation is characterized by public participation, consensus, fairness, gender equality, livelihood, access and rights to resources, integrated resource management, transparency, and sustainable forest management. The Gender and Social Inclusion Strategy for Forests 2064 is a strategy to ensure equitable access to decision-making and benefits for women and other marginalized groups in community forests and other forest areas.

Similarly, The Guidelines of the Community Forest Development Program (Third Amendment 2071) emphasize the need to ensure the participation of the deprived, women, Dalits, Madhesis, tribals, janajatis, backward classes, and remote consumers in the formation and decision making process of the community forest user committees.



To ensure inclusion in community forests, there is a provision of proportional representation of deprived, women, Dalits, tribals, janajatis, etc. while forming consumer committees.  There is a mandatory provision for at least 50 percent, women, to be represented in the committee including the poor, Dalits, Janajati and marginalities, and in the remaining 50 percent there should be a proportional representation of the poor, Dalits, tribals, janajatis and castes and at least one of the chairperson or secretary should be a woman.

The Guidelines of the Community Forest Development Program (Third Amendment 2071) also ensure women's participation in community forest income. The directive clearly states that at least 35 percent of the CFUG's income should be mobilized in targeted programs for poor women based on participatory prosperity standardization, special programs for women in community forests as per their demand, and priority should be given to establishing and operating forest enterprises to promote women's traditional knowledge.

Forest Policy 2071 has adopted the policy to increase the access of remote, deprived, Adivasi, Janajati, Dalit, women, and marginalized consumers through community-managed forests (Policy 4) and to enable management to promote good governance, inclusion, and social justice in the forest area (Policy 7).

Similarly, the directive also stipulates that there should be one woman in the operation of the account of the consumer group, women should be represented in the monitoring committee and women should be involved in the review and the amendment of the legislation and action plan of CFUG's.

Forest Policy 2071 has adopted the policy to increase the access of remote, deprived, Adivasi, Janajati, Dalit, women, and marginalized consumers through community-managed forests (Policy 4) and to enable management to promote good governance, inclusion, and social justice in the forest area (Policy 7). Various strategies were formulated according to these policies.

The National Forest Policy 2075 considers social security, inclusion, and good governance as the major policies. This includes ensuring women's rights in forest resource management and increasing their access to benefits while formulating forest sector organizations, policies, programs, and budgets based on the principles of gender and social inclusion.

Similarly, it is mentioned that strategies, laws, budgets, programs, and practices will be followed with the participation of 50 percent of women with decisive responsibility in all organizations in the forest sector. All of these policies and strategies apply to community forests as well. Out of the eight strategic pillars of the Forest Strategy, 2072 BS, the fifth pillar mentions the protection of community resource consumption, the seventh pillar mentions gender equality, social inclusion, and economic development.

The declaration of the Sixth National Community Forest Symposium ( 2071 BS) and its future course of action also states that special programs will be implemented for effective implementation of community forest guidelines and capacity building of the target group to ensure meaningful participation and equitable distribution of benefits from forest management through gender and social inclusion in the community forest sector.

Article 22 of the Forest Act 2076 stipulates that at least 25 percent of the annual income earned by the consumer group as per the action plan should be spent on forest development, conservation, and management and at least 50 percent of the remaining amount should be spent on poverty reduction, women empowerment, and enterprise development. The Fifteenth Plan also sets out strategies to manage forests with the participation of women and to implement gender and social inclusion strategies in community forest management systems with timely modifications.

Due to policy constraints, the number of women in community forest group officials is high, but in practice, women have been made roleless. Apart from the wives and daughters and daughters-in-law of the leaders and some of the elites, other persons cannot reach the committee freely. Most of the community forests tend to dominate in group decision-making and policy-making, leaving women officials without a role. Out of about 22,000 community forest groups, only 1,000 are managed by women and less than one-third of women are in the entire community forest committee. This clearly shows the poor situation of gender inclusion in CF's.

Traditionally, women have been more dependent on forests. Gender inclusion, not only in the leadership of community forest groups but also in decision-making and the distribution of benefits, is essential from the point of view of environmental justice and has been prioritized by the guidance of the Forest Development Program.



Gender representation in community forest user groups is increasing due to changes in social-political consciousness and conflict but in the name of inclusion, politicians who have never played a role in forest conservation and consumption are becoming CFUG's committee executives. Only women who have received their blessings from influential people in ethnic and partisan communities have reached influential positions in the community forest. Such people are enjoying the income of the forest. Due to the lack of real gender inclusion, community forests have not been able to achieve the expected success in areas such as poverty alleviation and livelihoods, and women's access to forest resources has been weakened.

Participation should be not only in attendance but also in the decision-making process. For this, women, Dalits, Janajatis, marginalized and poor consumers should be properly represented in the executive committee (consumer committee) and their voices and needs should be addressed.

The main goal of the community forest program is to help the local people who are consuming the forest by conserving the forest and protecting the environment through them and fulfilling their needs. To do these things, there needs to be equitable participation of all groups, including women, in community forests. The guidance of the Community Forest Development Program has made it clear that the leadership of the group (consumer committee) should be gender-balanced and inclusive in terms of social structure.

Likewise, participation should be not only in attendance but also in the decision-making process. For this, women, Dalits, Janajatis, marginalized and poor consumers should be properly represented in the executive committee (consumer committee) and their voices and needs should be addressed. Although gender inclusion and participation in community forest groups have been ensured as a matter of policy, the provisions mentioned in the practices and practices have not been fully and effectively followed. The group and the Forest Users Federation are dominated by politicians and elite classes. There is no meaningful participation of women in the decision-making process. A limited number of people are controlling the community forest by showing some women in the FUG's group.

Due to such activities, the objective of community forest development is being overshadowed. Until now, the community forests have been considered successful due to the increase in greenery in the forests and increase in income by selling forest products. If gender inclusion in community forests is not made practical, these successes achieved by Community Forests will not long-last.

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Photos: ICIMOD

 

 

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