Gender equality and women’s empowerment are central to the realization of human rights, development objectives, and effective and sustainable development outcomes. In Zambia, natural resource management is decentralized and co-managed with communities, increasing the rights of communities to manage and benefit from natural resources through the participation of women and men in established institutions of governance at the local level, commonly referred to as Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) structures. From inception, these institutions have remained male dominated with very limited participation of women. A number of factors account for this; among them is the existing strong traditional norms in many of the communities. Culturally, it is widely believed and practiced that only men can lead, perpetuating the unequal participation and gender stereotypes that work against women from getting into leadership. Other barriers include the lack of information, resources, and social space on the part of women to successfully compete for leadership positions with men, family demands that women to devote time to community activities, and low literacy levels.
With this background, USAID’s Integrated Land and Resource Governance program (ILRG) has, since 2019, supported stakeholders in natural resource management to implement several initiatives to increase women’s participation and representation in CBNRM. As a result of these interventions, more women are now willing to take up leadership positions in community governance structures, which requires overcoming the barriers which, in the first place, have kept them outside the realm of leadership. This manual is a tool for supporting women leaders to acquire knowledge and socio-emotional skills that will enable them to play an effective and meaningful leadership role in community resource governance and management. The manual is developed specifically for community facilitators to support women in community leadership positions or those intending to get into community leadership.
The leadership and empowerment training program is focused on fostering self-confidence and building socioemotional/interpersonal skills that will support women to navigate gender barriers in their households and communities and to engage in local natural resource governance. With increased leadership skills, women elected to community governance bodies will 1) play an effective role in decision-making, 2) become effective leaders to represent the needs and interests of other women, and 3) become role models/resources at the community level to other women.