Female leaders in action: Hariyo Ban
In Nepal, there is a strong community forestry movement which includes Community Forest User Groups (CFUGs), where the government hands over land to communities to manage their local forests and derive benefits from them. However, in some cases, management decision-making and benefit-sharing are not inclusive or equitable within communities, often to the detriment of women and marginalized groups.
Between 2011 and 2021, Hariyo Ban, a program in Nepal funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), worked with women and other groups that face barriers in local communities, including women, to play leading roles in sustainable forest and watershed management. One portion of the program supported women and underrepresented people’s empowerment through Community Learning and Action Centers. Around 1,500 people—96% of them women and girls—participated in forum-style meetings where they discussed their experiences and challenges related to relationships, personal rights, livelihoods, community development, forests, and climate change impacts. Through these conversations, participants developed the knowledge, skills, and self-confidence to claim their rights to participate in community-level natural resource management decision-making and access their share of resilient livelihood benefits from forests and watersheds.
However, this alone was often not enough to strengthen the internal governance of CFUGs and other institutions. The program also provided training for key male members of these groups in women’s leadership development and gender sensitivity, which increased men’s support for women in community-based natural resource management initiatives and leadership positions. In the community institutions supported in phase two of the program, leadership positions filled by a member of a group that faced barriers increased to 87%, up 15% from the baseline. In turn, empowered women and vulnerable groups took action in their communities to adapt to the climate crisis and improve local forest management in ways that also enhanced their livelihoods. Many women went on to lead green enterprises and some were elected as rural municipality officials.