When the Forest feeds your Family you want to take care of it

Vue Le Y Voan in her favourite environment

Vietnam: Vue Le Y Voan is an experienced technical advisor at the Forest and Farm facility programme (FFF), FAO. She finds that even though forestry in Vietnam is a hard job, the appreciation of women in the sector is growing and so is the number of women at managerial levels.

How is it for you to be a woman in the forestry sector?

When implementing a forestry project, the female manager needs to be persistent and dare to face challenges. Project sites are always located in remote, mountainous areas where infrastructure is at a low level, traveling is hard, utilities are poor, literacy is low etc. Women working in this sector need to face and overcome all those challenges.

How are women represented in the sector in your country?

Nowadays, society is actually positive towards and appreciates the contribution of women in the forestry sector. There are more and more women in managerial positions at institutions like the Vietnamese Administration of Forestry, Vietnam University of Forestry, Vietnamese Academy of Forest Sciences and in the various associations and NGOs. There are also a number of female students in the educational institutions. 

How would you describe the forestry sector in the area where you are working?

My programme works in four different geographical areas. Each area has a different orientation and goals. One has high forest cover and tries to improve the value of plantation forests and NTFPs, another is focussed on agroforestry, forestry cooperatives, processing mills and FSC certified plantations. And another has a focus on fruit trees and ecotourism.

However, there are some “hot” areas where the forests are not being used properly: fruit trees are grown on land planned for timber; land is left unplanted, making it uncultivated; in other places, people get rights to manage government forestry land but they do not reforest the land. The FFF programme is working to resolve those problems.

Do you think you have different motives, goals, skills and practices than your male colleagues? 

I do not think there are differences in motives, goals, skills and practices between men and women when doing this job.  When working with the remote and mountainous communities, I think that it is important to investigate which local policies or supporting resources that can be taken as advantages to bring benefits to the people.  I make a roadmap to motivate the local foresters to corporate, produce forestry products, investigate the market, and do business sustainably.

Have you faced any form of discrimination tied your status or your work?

Such things happen now and then to anyone; it is not only my own experience. Fortunately, the government has adjusted some policies to promote gender equality. For example, the new regulation on the retirement age of female employees, increasing the retirement age so that women can retire at 60, giving them a chance to dedicate more time to their work.

Do you think that women have different competences that can make changes in beating climate change?

I do not think women have different competences, but their skills may be better than men’s. Women often take care of the family and children. Women are the ones who go to the forest to find vegetables, bamboo shoots and other edible products from the forest. That increases their skills and creates the feeling of appreciation for the forest – the place that feeds them and their family. Therefore, they are willing to apply sustainable methods of producing practices and forest management if they are trained to understand and practise. 

In general, do you consider gender issues important for the further development of the sector?

Yes, it is very important. If the gender issue is taken seriously and implemented, there will be many benefits as we will utilize and promote resources and wisdom of women in forestry development and sustainable management. 

Could you share an interesting story or experience that you have heard or experienced, and that is related to this topic of women in forestry?

A woman in one of my working areas, Ms. Nguyen Thi Mai, used to be a poor forest grower. She participated in our farmer training and got support for establishing and operating a production group. Now, Ms. Mai is the owner of a processing mill, which has created jobs for many other women and group members. 

This article is a part of the #womensustain campaign. The campaign contains the accounts of women from Nepal, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Vietnam, from technical experts, university professors and forest owners.