“In the past, only men were chosen to join the voluntary conservation group because working on the mountain is tough and dangerous, so women are seen as weak and not capable as well as men” said Ms. Thuong Nguyen Thi.
Ms. Thuong Nguyen Thi is a farmer of Thiet Son village, in Thach Hoa commune, Tuyen Hoa district, Quang Binh province. She is married with two daughters. Her and her husband volunteer to support protecting their community forest, as part of a volunteer community conservation group, where a population of the endangered Ha Tinh Langur (delacour’s langur) resides.
The life of Thuong as well as other villagers relies on the forest. Her husband Mr. Nam is a pioneer of the conservation volunteer group which protects the forest and the of community langurs. Whenever they see or identify a threat to the forest and its natural resources, they inform the group leader and try to find ways to resolve the issue.
Thuong had been helping the volunteer group since 2014, but her contribution was not recognized by other group members because they were afraid that she would not be capable of patrolling the mountains like men. However, their opinion about her ability did not stop her from actively contributing to monitor the forest. In early 2019 finally, she was recognized as a volunteer, “when I was accepted to the group, joined the group activities and patrolling the forest, I was so happy” the 39-year-old recalls.
Community forest management and conservation activities definitely took some of her time, but Thuong and her husband are supporting each other for both the conservation duties and taking care of the family. They both believe women are as capable as men, and when men and women are supporting each other everything is possible.
One time, Thuong had an accident while patrolling the mountain, she broke her leg and injured her spine. She had to rest in bed for three months, it was a challenging time for her. However, after recovering, she continued the conservation work again. Her dedication to protecting the forest made her become a role model for other villagers.
It is through the commitment of some villagers such as Thuong and her husband that the attitude of the local people and local authorities toward community forest management and conservation has changed. Forest plays an important role for the local livelihoods of the community, but some people exploit the natural resources for short-term benefits without consideration to the sustainability of the resources and the long-term benefits they provide. Thuong has used a gentle approach to raise the awareness of her neighbors. She was able to persuade many people to stop setting traps for poaching and instead contribute to protecting wildlife. This approach resulted in more and more villagers being engaged in the local conservation efforts.
This voluntary conservation group in Quang Binh province is supported by the Center for Highland Natural Resources Governance Research (CEGORN). This is one of the four pilots of forest allocation to local communities implemented by MRLG partners in Vietnam. MRLG is currently working with our partners to identify and implement gender transformative actions.