ITTO acknowledges vital contributions of women to policy development on sustainable forestry

24 June 2024

ITTO recognizes the indispensable involvement of women in the Organization’s work and their impactful contributions in advancing sustainable forestry in the tropics. Photo: Diego Noguera/IISD-ENB

24 June 2024: ITTO is marking International Day for Women in Diplomacy by recognizing the indispensable role and impactful contributions of women in advancing sustainable forestry in the tropics and by honouring these women and their invaluable efforts in shaping international policies and practices.

“Women have always been integral to the forest sector, but their achievements and leadership are often underappreciated compared with their male counterparts,” said ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru, the first woman to hold the Organization’s top job.

“Nevertheless, I believe things are changing for the better, and many women are now involved in the development of vital global forest policy.”

An important figure in ITTO’s recent history is Jennifer Conje, a long-standing delegate of the United States of America to the International Tropical Timber Council (ITTC) and other global forums. Ms Conje, who is now a member of the ITTO Secretariat, served as the Council’s Vice-chair (in 2015) and Chair (in 2016) during a turbulent period for the Organization.

“Her exceptional leadership and strategic decisions were pivotal in navigating the Organization through this challenging time and enabling the necessary reforms to stabilize and revitalize it,” said Ms Satkuru. 

Ms Conje said women need an equal voice in sustainable forest management (SFM) and the international tropical timber trade.

“The involvement of women is integral for achieving the broader goals of SFM,” she said. “This is true in countries’ administration and on the ground because of the crucial direct role of women in using and managing forests, and it is also true at the international level, where policies are debated and shaped.”

ITTO adopted policy guidelines on gender equality and empowering women in 2017 to provide a framework for gender integration and mainstreaming in ITTO policies, plans, programmes, projects, activities and internal functioning. The guidelines are intended to enhance the impact and effectiveness of the Organization’s operations in all areas and at all levels. The primary author of the guidelines was Ms Stephanie Caswell, another long-term delegate to the ITCC and an adept diplomat and policy analyst.

Since the adoption of the policy guidelines on gender equality, Ms Satkuru—as Director of Operations at the time—has ensured its wide implementation in ITTO manuals, project proposals and concept notes submissions as well as internal and external procedures.

The present chair of the ITTC, Ms Anna Tyler, is the latest in a long line of female Council chairs. In addition, many women are playing an active role in shaping the work of the Organization is various capacities, such as chairing and participating in Council Committees, ITTO expert groups and panels, and heading their respective countries’ delegations to advance the forestry agenda.

ITTO is supporting many women across the tropics in their efforts to drive sustainable forestry. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, Mme Delphine Ahoussi led an ITTO project on forest landscape restoration with women’s groups, setting a benchmark for similar initiatives initiated by the ITTO Executive Director and supported by donors in Togo and Benin. In Indonesia, Ms Desy Ekawati coordinated an ITTO project that empowered women bamboo weavers by enhancing their product designs and financial management skills. In Machu Picchu, Peru, ITTO Fellow Talia Lostanau produced a documentary showcasing efforts to improve fire prevention in this historic sanctuary.

Globally, women in diplomacy are helping to improve forest governance and ensure that the value of forests is recognized in international policies, particularly within various UN conventions. Their proactive contributions are crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and addressing pressing global challenges.

“International Day for Women in Diplomacy is an appropriate moment to reaffirm our commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women,” said Ms Satkuru. “The equal contributions of women to policy development and international diplomacy are essential for the future of forests and the planet.”

Related SDGs

Women in diplomacy have helped shape ITTO policies and governance, and ITTO’s policy guidelines on gender equality and empowering women provide a framework for gender integration and mainstreaming in ITTO policies, plans, programmes, projects, activities and internal functioning.
Gender equity in policy development—both internationally and more locally—is crucial for sustainable forest management and sustainable tropical timber trade.