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The most difficult thing in forestry is - to be a woman

Anabela, Daria and Emina prove with their persistence and labour that it is worthwhile to be a forester

Anabela, Daria and Emina prove with their persistence and labour that it is worthwhile to be a forester, and their love towards nature drew them to this job

„The most beautiful moments in the forest are encounters with animals.  Who can show off with seeing a roe deer and a snake in the same day?!“, says Emina Zahirović, planning and analysis officer at public forest enterprise (PFE) Forests of Central Bosnian Canton, answering the question of what makes her most happy at work.   „I wanted to be a lawyer, and I enrolled at the Forestry Faculty by chance. I was totally unaware of what the forestry is about, but as I was getting to know it better through studying I started to like it“, Emina continues.

This young forestry expert, and her colleagues Anabela Glibić and Daria Sesar, are employed at PFE Forests of Central Bosnian Canton. Their director Eldin Delić, who is responsible for integral forest protection and ecology, is full of praise for the three young co-workers.  

„They are among few women in our company who can carry out this hard work with steady routine. They are excellent in the field, where they execute all the forest operations, but also produce written records with the characteristic female precision which we, men, honestly, do not poses“, Delić emphasises.

We met them in the Forestry Office Fojnica, an extension office of the PFE Central Bosnian Canton, since we are united by the same story, WWF project ‘Promote responsible forestry in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ funded by the global producer of the Scandinavian furniture IKEA. This story started back in 2011, and after getting certified 56.000 hectares of forests in the Tuzla Canton and 36.000 ha in the Central Bosnian Canton, has continued through development of the BiH FSC Standard and awareness raising on importance of the EU Timber Regulation. Brcko District, Federation of the BiH and Republic of Srpska are involved in the project. Beside forest certification in Central Bosnian Canton, WWF encourages the dialogue among the key stakeholders in the process of approval of the Federal Law on Forests. Improvement of the High Conservation Value Forests (HCVF) Guide was the main link with our interviewees who participated in preparations of the forest certification.
„Certification protects what we have, so that future generations can use it too. I work here for four and a half years. Certification process helped me to get acquainted with the local community and to discover places where I had never been before, to see the beauty of the broader landscape. This is the brighter side of the nature“, emphasises Emina. Actually, certification procedure ensures sustainable forest management that respects principles of biodiversity protection, and implementation of the measures in everyday forest operations, while taking into account interest of the local community.

The best way to find out whether the product we want to buy is made of the certified wood is the FSC logo. Do people in this area recognize it?

„No“, Daria is clear. „But we are those who have to raise awareness about sustainable forest use. We should not use the forest only for our current needs, but we must leave it in good shape for future generations. Foresters are somehow on the margins in BiH, perception of them is negative. I think that certification will take us up to a higher level“.

Anabela added that the three of them contributed to spreading the word about FSC.  „We raised awareness of our friends and relatives who now know the difference between certified and non-certified products, because of our work. People pay more attention now“, concludes this forester lady whose previous dream was to become - a hairdresser. „But, when I enrolled at the secondary school, my parents had a different vision of my life and they wanted me to get a university degree, to live a better life. They offered me to choose a school and I chose the forestry one. The Principal told me a story about people who work in the field, mark trees, and meet other people. At that moment it seemed great to me, and later on it became even better. Two months later I got an opportunity to transfer to another school, but nothing could separate me from forestry any more.  If I had to choose again, I would choose the same“.

Does it mean that you would recommend your children to follow in your footsteps?

Emina and Anabela nodded yes, Daria, the only mother among them, replied readily: „No I would not!“ How interesting that such a statement comes from the only person among them who had aimed to study forestry and who was attracted to nature and the sense of freedom it brings. „I enrolled at forestry because I liked plants but when I started with the master level education, it moved me away a bit from  ‘classic’ forestry. That is why I enjoyed to work on the WWF certification project that showed me what it all means, compared to strict theory we learn at the university.“

Talking about her work with passion, Daria still remains vague on why she said that she would not like her child to be a forester. But soon we got the explanation:

„Forest work is not that as magical as we were told when we were young. Work conditions and political environment are different now. I would rather recommend to my child to be a teacher, to learn foreign languages, because in spite of all the beauty of nature, fresh air, plants and animals, forestry is hard work, especially for a woman. During tree marking in the summer, we come home late and face the family duties, and it is very demanding especially for a woman. Winters are difficult too…. In summer we are often bitten by insects, attacked by ticks… I do not want this for my child! My parents never influenced my decisions, they did not have problems with my choices, as they do not have today. However, I would not like my child to cope with this. “, she said openly.
All three of them are planning and analysis officers at PFE Forests of Central Bosnian Canton, responsible for tree marking, project proposals development, and planning, which means they propose to their superiors what needs to be done in the forthcoming year concerning silviculture. They consider tree-marking as the most significant part of their job because selection of trees to be cut requires expertise.

While Anabela, Emina and Daria are satisfied with their job, their professor Mersudin Avdibegović, BiH coordinator of the WWF-IKEA project, who leads the certification process and the FSC Standard Development Group at the country level, tells us about research results of investigation of the motives and reasons for studying forestry, which was recently carried out at the University of Sarajevo. Usually, almost equal number of men (60%) and women (40%) enrol to forestry studies, which is a surprising in the context of this interview, which was driven by the fact that three ladies have been hired to fill the three open positions at the Forestry Office Fojnica. However, Professor Avdibegovic emphasises replies of the surveyed students to the question about their expectations after graduation, i.e. do they expect to get the job in forestry sector!

„It is not easy at all! Half of the surveyed students stated they were certain to get a job in the forestry sector, most probably not being aware of the fact that in this very moment about 50 graduated foresters are waiting for a job at the employment office in only two cantons, out of ten. I am deeply concerned with the results of this reserach“, says professor Avdibegović.

This is another reason why our three interviewees should feel lucky, they got the jobs they were educated for. We are going out to take photos in front of the headquarters. It was raining the day before, so we mind our steps. Probably they do so in the forest as well, during field work. In boots…

„What footwear do you prefer?“, I ask, pretty convinced that boots or hiking shoes will be on top.
„High heels“, they said at the same time! Although foresters they will always remain – women.

Petra Boić Petrač, WWF Adria
Emina, Anabela and Daria
Daria and Anabela
Three foresters with their boss Eldin Delić and professor Mersudin Avdibegović

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