Invest more in women to accelerate progress on sustainable forestry, says ITTO Executive Director

8 March 2024

ITTO project staff Tereza C. M. Pastore (left) and Liz F. Soares conduct wood identification in a sawmill in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia. Photo: ITTO/LPF

8 March 2024: Despite increasing recognition of the vital role of women in sustainable forestry, more investment is needed in the sector to fully realize their potential and to achieve gender equality, ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru said on International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day is held each year on 8 March to help build support for women’s rights and their participation in all aspects of life. This year’s theme is Invest in women: Accelerate progress.

“ITTO has an unwavering commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment in the tropical forest sector and worldwide,” said Ms Satkuru. “We know that investing in women will accelerate progress not only in forestry but also in broader sustainable development efforts.”

ITTO’s commitment to gender mainstreaming is deeply ingrained in its operations, as outlined in the Organization’s policy guidelines on gender equality and empowering women, published in 2018. These guidelines articulate three objectives: (1) enhancing the integration of gender considerations in ITTO’s policy and project work; (2) building capacity to promote gender equality in the tropical forest sector; and (3) strengthening women’s role in ITTO’s governance and its secretariat.

Ms Satkuru said women have always played crucial roles in forestry, serving as custodians of traditional knowledge, gatherers of forest products, and increasingly as forestry professionals, but disparities persist in resource access, decision-making and career opportunities.

“Despite their vital roles, many women are limited in their control over forest land, access to financial resources, technology, education and training, and share of forest-based benefits,” said Ms Satkuru. “This is a major hindrance to sustainable forestry because it means the immense potential of women is still going largely untapped.”

Recognizing this, ITTO prioritizes investment, capacity building and awareness-raising to accelerate gender equality and improve women’s wellbeing in its work across the tropics.

Women have occupied diverse roles in the Organization. Many have served as chairs of the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTO’s governing body), and others are members of the Secretariat and various advisory bodies. Numerous women have served as project coordinators and contributed to technical appraisals and evaluations of ITTO projects.

Women comprise over 30% of all ITTO Fellows, and strong efforts are underway to reach gender parity in the programme.

ITTO projects have strong representation of women. In Brazil, for example, Dr Teresa Pastore led a research project that pioneered field techniques for identifying mahogany wood to enhance timber identification processes. In Fiji, women’s groups are restoring mangrove forests with assistance from ITTO, simultaneously improving livelihoods and combating climate change. In Togo, ITTO interventions have empowered women to create new forest resources and livelihoods through agroforestry systems.

These initiatives underscore ITTO’s belief in the pivotal role of women in sustainable forest management.

“ITTO will continue to champion gender equality and women’s empowerment,” said Ms Satkuru. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to accelerating progress on this front and building a more inclusive and equitable future for all.”

Related SDGs

ITTO projects are helping empower women and increase their incomes. All ITTO activities must adhere to guidelines on gender equality and empowerment of women.

The ITTO Fellowship Programme offers equal access to young and middle-career professional women and men.
Gender equity is crucial for sustainable forest management and thus forest conservation, sustainable use and a sustainable timber trade.