Stakeholders agreed to mainstream gender equity and inclusion in the agriculture, land and forestry sectors in Liberia.
The application of gender policies in these sectors has been largely hampered by access to information, a coordinated strategy, traditional practices and norms, capacities and budgetary constraints.
Liberian women make important contributions to the agriculture and land sectors, but they continue to play a limited role in the leadership structures that determine the fate of these industries. According to studies, they produce more than half of the country’s food crops, creating 60% of agricultural products and carrying out 80% of commercial activities in rural areas. According to a World Bank report, meeting global food needs increasingly depends on gender mainstreaming in the agriculture and forestry sectors, and this would improve women’s resource capacity, but it is lacking.
Liberia’s National Gender Policy and Land Rights Act 2018 recognizes women’s right to land ownership and requires their full participation in matters relating to the use and development of these vital resources. The gender policy prohibits any form of discrimination against women, while the land rights law grants equal participation and access to land. Failure to respect and enforce these rights also violates the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to which Liberia is a signatory.
“We need to raise political awareness because people don’t even know about the law. We need to target the custodian of traditional practices to provide insight into the importance of policy,” said James Parker, Senior Project Manager of ProForest at a two-day gender conference in Monrovia that brought together representatives government, CSOs and business people. . The non-governmental organization supports governments and civil society organizations on the sustainable management of forest products and helped organize the event.
“We also need to discuss with the government how they can provide tools and budget support for implementation,” he added in an interview with The DayLight.
Liberia has attractive gender equality laws on the books that have largely failed to be implemented. A gender assessment policy in the country shows the great disparity in land ownership between women and men. The study found that women are negatively affected by the lack of implementation of gender policies in agriculture and forestry industries, including environment. It highlights that gender equality is a major factor affecting supply chain value in cocoa sectors and reveals how commercial logging and chainsaw mail have been major sources of deforestation.
“This is a serious global issue when it comes to women’s control of land,” said Wilhmena Beyan, director of the Social Entrepreneurs for Sustainable Development (SESDev) program. Which helped organize the event. “For this to work, we need to continue to target chiefs and traditional leaders more, including Zoes. We must raise their awareness and explain to them the importance of the role of women in these sectors.
The participants, representing the rubber, oil palm and forestry industries, agreed to continue building women’s capacities, as well as institutionalizing gender policies in the public and private sectors. A special report should be prepared from the conference results to seek donor support for specific interventions, they agreed.
“We need to step up advocacy for the protection of women’s rights in the rubber sector, ensuring that they too get into important positions,” said Wilhmena Siaway, President of the Rubber Planters Association of Liberia. (RPAL) at The DayLight. “We will continue to push for equal rights, equal opportunities and equal participation for women in society.”
“If we want this to work, we must continue to mobilize everyone to support women’s rights across the sector. Women are an integral part of the oil palm sector, and we must never forget that,” Franklyn Jackson, head of the Association of Liberian Oil Palm Farmers Incorporated (ALOPFI) told this online news platform.
Editor’s note: This story is published as a result of a partnership with the Daily Observer newspaper.