Forest Action Nepal’s “Economic Empowerment of Women through Forest Solutions”- a project implemented by ForestAction along with HIMAWANTI, AFFON and FENFIT and funded by IDRC Canada hosted an educational/learning exposure visit for women leaders from Madhesh and Lumbini Province on 24th January, 2023. The World Bank team including- Ms. Meerim Shakirova- Team Leader- “Forestry for Prosperity” Project, Deputy Mayors, community forest women leaders, representatives from Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN); Dedicated Grant Mechanism for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in Nepal (DGM)/Rural Reconstruction Nepal, Focal Persons- Forestry for prosperity from Province, journalists participated in one-day visit to the research sites. The visit was conducted to demonstrate the possibilities of women leadership and empowerment through low carbon enterprise different activities in forestry.
Before departing to the field, the team were briefed on the project, it’s approach, intervention and outcomes. The first half of the visit was concentrated on discussing women empowerment and barriers for women leadership in Amarjyoti CFUG- Devchuli Municipality. The women leaders from the CF executives and the women entrepreneur groups shared their experiences and learning on how women, especially the dalits and their issues got institutionalized and how they benefit from the project and community forestry interventions. Focusing on the cases from Duna tapari leaf plates and bowl enterprise and ginger-turmeric farming, the women shared their stories of struggle and success. The concerns and discussion on the sustainable harvesting, engaging dalit women in duna tapari enterprises and competing with the non-local products especially cheap plastic products for securing markets were major concerns which were addressed strategically by the women entrepreneurs. The team of women leaders also visited the community forest and ginger -turmeric production sites, duna tapari production process and interacted on the forest management modalities and benefits that women could extract from the forest.
The second visit was made to Namuna Women CFUG in Devchuli Municipality. A brief interaction with CFUG members and women entrepreneurs took place inside the community forest. The major objective of visiting the forest was to explore how women priorities are being reflected in the forest development and management. The women in CFUG had used barren land through non-timber forest products plantations e.g. lemon grass, tejpat (bayleaves trees), fruits, amriso (broom grass) plantation of trees like rakta chadan (sandal trees) which are useful to them on daily basis. Thakal (straw bags and hats producers) handicraft group shared the ups and downs of their enterprise establishment stories. They shared how rural women groups can be mis-guided and manipulated by the elite women across the value chain and by different actors. The Thakal entrepreneurs highlighted the exposure and trainings they have received from the project. The WOCAN Associate also visited the trade fair in Daldale and observed how the women entrepreneurs were expanding their market. Finally, the visit team appreciated how both women and men in community forestry were working together for women empowerment.