By Bimbika Sijapati-Basnett and Leona Liu
Oil palm expansion threatens to displace local women from the lands where they cultivate their food crops, and this way help to feed their families. Furthermore, the women´s work contributions to oil palm production are largely unrecognized, and in the rare cases that they are, women are overrepresented in the ‘casual worker’ category, with limited entitlement to decent working conditions. Finally, gender issues are not considered in policies, certification bodies and regulations in the sector.
The objective of the ongoing research by scientists at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in collaboration with the University of Indonesia and the University of Brighton, is to point out the critical roles that women play as members of local communities, members of smallholder households, and investors.
The researchers furthermore hope to raise awareness on gender issues in oil palm, as mentioned by Bimbika Sijapati-Basnett, Scientist and Gender Coordinator at CIFOR: “We really don’t want this research to be just another report that sits on the shelf. Our hope is to raise awareness about what constitutes key gender issues in the current debate about sustainable oil palm, and to make sure that women’s rights are safeguarded.”
Scientists point out that oil palm offers both challenges and opportunities for these diverse groups of women and their families. And yet, the emerging policy discussions related to sustainability of oil palm supply chains, inclusion of smallholders, promotion of rights of workers and indigenous peoples need to better consider gender as a key cross-cutting issue. Stakeholders should also strive for greater gender equality and women’s empowerment through proposed policies and actions in the sector.
One of the outcomes of the research is laid out in this infobrief, offering 1) recommendations to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) on how to develop mechanisms for addressing gender inequities in oil palm and 2) lessons for other certification standards such as Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO).
Another main outcome is a recent policy dialogue held at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. In this dialogue, key players involved in oil palm in Indonesia highlighted the need for equal rights and opportunities for women and men. Furthermore did the panelists stress the need for women to have a bigger say in decisions related to land, employment and smallholder inclusion.
This research is funded by the UK Department of International Development, the United States Agency for International Development, Rights and Resources Initiative, Oxfam and the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry.