National Consultation organised on Women, Forests and Forest Rights
Bhubaneswar, Sep 28: A National Consultation on ‘Women, Forest and Forest Rights Act’ concluded on Saturday at the venue CYSD . The two days programme was jointly organized by State based organizations like Vasundhara, RCDC, CWS, Agragamee, CARE, FES and Actionaid.
In the two days programme the role of the woman in the implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) at different level i.e in the Gram Sabha, Forest Rights Committee(FRC),Sub-Divisional Level Committee(SDLC) and District Level Committee(DLC) was emphasized. Around 200 participants from different civil society organisations, community members, activists working with women’s groupsworkingon FRA participated in this consultation. In the consultation, extensive discussions regarding the experiences and learning and collective actions using FRA to secure woman rights over land and forest was shared from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat etc.
The important issues emerged in the two-days consultations are lack of awarenessamongst women over rights recognized under the FRA, inadequate representation of woman in the FRC and Gram sabha leading to the exclusion of women in the decision making process, recording of Individual Forest Rights titles in the name of man only despite the provision of joint title under FRA.
Besides the woman related issues, the general problems being faced in the FRA implementation in different States including Odisha was also discussed. The major FRA implementation issues discussed in the national level consultation are non-demarcation of forest land issued under Individual Forest Rights (IFR), lack of communication and awareness regarding the rejection of IFR claims, non-recognition of ownership rights over minor forest produce including Bamboo and Kendu leaf which have much importance forwomen, non-implementation of the provision for minimum support price mechanism for MFPs, non-recognition of IFR rights of OTFDs, harassment of woman by forest Department during collection of fuel wood and minor forest produce(MFP), forcible plantation by the Forest department over forest land claimed under FRA and even over the forest land where IFR titles have been issued using CAMPA fund, Green India Mission fund and MGNREGA fund etc.
It was also emerged in the discussion that CFR rights in many states are recognized in the name of VSSs in violation of the FRA as in case of Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. In the wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves(e.g. Panna Tiger Reserve in MadhyaPradesh and Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha),recent relocation of villages has affected women and their land rights adversely. Families displaced from Simlipal tiger reserve are unable to access developmental facilities(housing, school, health) in the relocated sites (Kapand-Banabasa village relocated from Simlipal).
Besides, in areas where there are significant mining interests, IFR and CFR claims are not being recognised with any seriousness by the SDLC and DLC rather they are seriously engaged in forging Gram Sabha resolutions in the interest of the mining companies.
The important recommendationsof theConsultation are;
- There is a need to refer to the women’s policies of the various governments and to undertake theimplementation of FRA in the states in the context of these policies to make these processes gender sensitive.There is also a need to do policy advocacy regarding this.
- The mandatory requirement of representation of women members in the FRCs and Gram Sabhas must be ensured to facilitate their effective participation. Representation of women members in positions of office (e.g., president and secretary of FRCs) needs to be ensured.
- Representation of women members in the SDLC and DLCs need to be ensured.
- Training modules and communication materials used for FRA need to incorporate separate sections on the provisions relating to the rights of women.
- There is a need for training government officials regarding gender sensitivity with respect to the implementation of FRA. Training and sensitization is mainly necessary for the forest department officials.
- There is a need to carryout training and awareness programmes, especially for women members of the Forest Rights Committees and Gram Sabhas, as well as for women PRI representatives who are members of the sub-divisional and district level committees.
- The DLC need to pay special attention to the rights of women and take proactive action to facilitate filing of their claims.
- IFR and CFR rights under the FRA need to be primarily recognized in the name of women.
- Women should be involved in the verification and mapping of forest land and community forest resources and the technical knowhow of the process need to be provided to the women organizations.
- Initiatives by women for forest protection and FRA initiatives need to be documented and widely shared.
- Special cell and facilitation centre need to be set up at the government level to work on women forest rights.
The two days national level consultation was coordinated by Miss SonaliPattnaik of Vasundhara and moderated by Miss Sumit Krishna (an independent researcher on woman rights).