The invisible workforce: gender myth-busting in Ecuador

New research from the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has found that the role of women in the use of wood and the forest is quite common among indigenous Kichwa women in Ecuador’s Amazon.

However, it’s something that’s rarely recognised by society and in policy, says Elena Mejia, a CIFOR researcher working on the Pro-Formal project in Ecuador , of which this gender study is a small part.

Pro-Formal aims to shed light on Ecuador’s domestic timber market and the way in which smallholders engage in those markets; the gender study was carried out by Mejia and Liliana Vásquez, a student working with CIFOR on the project.

It tends to be assumed that timber harvesting and forest use in general is an exclusively male activity, as is common in mestizo communities in the same area, Mejia says. Earlier CIFOR research has found that very commonly in Latin American forest communities, it’s considered that “a woman’s place is not in the forest.”

But while mestizo women in the Ecuadorian Amazon stick to traditional reproductive and house-bound activities, Kichwa women nearby are starting to branch out.

The researchers surveyed around 20 Kichwa women in Orellana and Napo. In addition to interviews, they asked the women to complete a daily and monthly calendar of their activities.

It’s a small study, and further work is needed to test how widespread the phenomenon is. But these findings are important, says Mejia, to disprove the common myth that forest activities are purely masculine.

Source: Kate Evans | CIFOR