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The Voluntary Partnership Agreement on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (VPA-FLEGT) between Vietnam and the European Union (EU) was signed on October 19, 2018, and took effect on June 1, 2019. This shows the great efforts of the Vietnamese government in implementing forest governance as well as developing the wood processing industry in a sustainable way. During implementation, the impacts of VPA-FLEGT on the livelihoods and safety of women and other vulnerable social groups should be closely monitored. This requirement has been mentioned in Article 16 of the Agreement on Social Safeguards, it is stated that: “In order to minimise possible adverse effects of this Agreement, the Parties agree to assess the impacts on ethnic minorities and local communities concerned and on their way of life as well as on the households and the timber industry”. To monitor social impact, the indicators related to sex-disaggregated data should be systematically collected and analyzed. Although gender is not specifically addressed in the VPA, several key indicators in the Vietnam Timber Legality Definition (VPA Annex II) have a built-in gender dimension, reflecting how Gender is now integrated into many relevant areas of legislation and regulation, including indicators on land and forest use rights, and the labor code and social welfare rights (Edwin, 2020).

Although the topic of gender in forestry has received the attention of many individuals and organizations in recent years, the outcomes are often not as expected and are mainly quantitatively based on secondary national statistics. Moreover, given the great diversity of the sector, it is essential that any future research and data collection clearly distinguish between the different segments of the industry and should avoid giving general inferences and general conclusions about the characteristics of the forest product processing industries (Edwin, 2020). It is thus needed to understand the real context and sex-disaggregate data collection from many practical angles.

Accordingly, this research project was conducted through empirical interviews with 2 specific target groups in the forestry sector: Afforestation Households (AHs) and Timber-Processing and Manufacturing Small and Micro-scale Enterprises (SMEs), who are considered to the first and most important groups in the timber production value chain in Vietnam. These are also assessed as potentially affected by VPA on livelihoods. The SMEs have strong ties to about 30 woodworking villages of 2,000-3,000 households with 3,000-8,000 employees, as well as 1.4 million AHs (Dung, 2020). An estimated 2-3 million women work in the SMEs involved in the activities of growing and processing wood products for domestic sale and export around the world (Forest Trends, 2019). However, there are very few studies on gender issues for these two groups in order to provide a reference database for monitoring and assessing the impact of VPA/FLEGT in Vietnam.

Given that context, this research project focuses specifically on fieldwork surveys to collect sex-disaggregate data and analyze gender issues in the two above groups in order to develop a database including many indicators in monitoring the impact of VPA-FLEGT on gender equality and sustainable management. This database will contribute to ensuring social impact monitoring in the VPA/FLEGT Impact Assessment and Monitoring Framework approved in Decision No. 2/2021 of the Joint Implementation Committee ( JIC). The research results will also contribute to the reference for the gender equality goals in the 2013 Constitution (Article 26); Civil Code 2015 (Article 213), Law on Gender Equality (2006) in Articles 4 and 6; National Strategy on Gender Equality for the period 2021-2030; Law on Land (Article 48), Law on Forestry (2017) in Clause d, Article 10, and objectives of “Strategy for development of Vietnam’s forestry sector in the period of 2021-2030, with a vision to 2050”.

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