World Rainforest Movement

Impact of Logging on Women

Women around the world suffer greatly. They suffer from all kinds of situations such as wars and sexual discriminations by men. Children suffer as a consequent of their sufferings. In many cultures, men look upon women as inferior and as such they are forced to do all the heavy and hard work.

Ninety percent or 4.5 million Papua New Guineans depend on the forests for their livelihoods and have done so for hundreds and even thousands of years. The forests provide food, building materials, medicine and a source of culture and spirituality for the people.

Within the various cultures in Papua New Guinea, there is very little variation in the role that women play. While men act as the head of the family, their role is quite minimal. They act as the guardian of the family, and possibly the hunter or the fisherman depending where they live. The man will also spend a considerable amount of time at the men’s house in some cultures and can be away from their families for weeks, even months, leaving the women by their own to fend for themselves and their families.

A day in the life of women in the communities may start with cooking food for the family very early in the morning, almost at the crack of dawn, and then it is off to the garden to tend to the crops or to the forests to gather food, often with the young ones in tow. Then she has to go and collect firewood and water to prepare the evening meal.

Women hardly ever have time to try and sort their personal problems out and on many occasions, they will endure these problems in order to carry out their responsibilities. A woman has to try and fulfil these tasks without failure for if she doesn’t, she can be deemed to be an unfit wife and mother. In some customs, a man can get a new wife if he or his people feel that the current wife is not performing her traditional obligations.

Women are traditional collectors and gatherers of the many foods found in the forests. As primary forests are cleared through large-scale logging or for commercial developments such as plantations, their traditional harvesting and gathering grounds can be greatly affected by such large scale activities in the forests so again, they must walk very long distances in order to satisfy the needs of the family.

The destruction of forests by logging also results in the depletion of water resources, meaning that women will need to walk many kilometres to fetch good and clean drinking water, thus resulting in added work burdens for women. During dry seasons, women can spend 10-12 hours a day making more than two trips for water.

The activities of logging can destroy suitable land for gardening through the effect of top soil erosion, so again women have to wander far from their homes to find suitable land to plant their food.

The social impact of large scale logging on a forest dependent community is yet another area that women and the community in general are forced to face.

Logging activities generate money within a community not often familiar with the cash economy, especially through the payment of royalty money. This can lead to increased drunkenness not only amongst grown men but also youths and teenagers, prostitution, greater levels of sexually transmitted diseases and an increase in malnutrition, low birth weight babies and malaria. Such activities can also lead to law and order problems like armed robbery, stealing and crimes committed against women. Examples of these kinds of problems have been documented in many parts of Papua New Guinea where logging has taken place.

Women bear the brunt of the negative effects of industrial logging as it is their task to supply their families with water and collect food while they hardly participate in the decision-making on logging and in the distribution of timber royalties.

The introduction of other foreign methods of living such as style of clothing, diets, entertainment and social activities can have an adverse effect on women and the community in general.

In the words of Baida Bamesa, a women’s representative from the Kiunga/Aiambak area of Western province where a large-scale road and logging project exists, “Our bush was really green and healthy before the arrival of the logging company, but nowadays, it is black. The company came and spoilt our environment and the animals are now very far away. We are very worried because we women are facing a very hard problem. They did not benefit us with any good things, nothing”.

Excerpted from: “Women Suffer the Most from Large Scale Logging”, by Joe Meava, Echoes from the Forests 12, http://www.ecoforestry.org.pg/Women_Logging.doc

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