Commercial and financial skills also transform gender roles
With increased technical skills, women started to engage in other business areas related to timber processing. They now assess and gather field data from the plantations, negotiate with the plantation owners and clients, and handle timber trade records. These changes and acceptance of women’s contributions are slowly transforming gender roles.
Sound financial management is the cornerstone to the success and sustainability of family timber businesses and community enterprises. Women in Sob Lee village would usually undertake finance duties at the household level only. But families started seeing opportunities to utilise their skills in the family business too.
“I asked my wife to take charge of all financial matters,” said Udon Taemduem, a retired teacher and chairperson of Sob Lee tree growers’ group. After retiring as a local teacher, he faced significant losses in running his timber business. “She is so detailed and accurate in cost-benefit calculations. Thanks to her, our debt-laden business moved to profits. Her negotiation skills with the plantation owners and clients are amazing. We also get a good deal for our purchase and trade orders,” he said.
After acquiring sufficient expertise to handle the self-declaration form through the Forest Smallholders Project’s capacity-building activities, he felt confident that he could purchase timber and transport it across provinces. He also realised that it would be better that his wife and the other women in the group complete the relevant documentation, so that it was no longer necessary to hire local officials for this task.
Despite men still overseeing the final checks of official documents and liaising with the government officials, women’s enhanced capacities have increased their participation and roles in the timber supply chain. Prasit Aonnom, a wood processing workshop owner, explains how this happened in his household.
“My wife becomes a business partner whom I always consult and we take decisions together. We share the workload,” said Prasit. “While I coordinate the work with clients, she is managing our finances. While she polishes and paints the wood, I am building the structures and products. We have to make sure that our family successfully earns a living from this timber processing and trade investment.”