Welcoming woodlands are top priority for Romena
Welcoming woodlands are top priority for Scottish Forestry’s Engagement Programme Manager Romena Huq.
From faith celebrations, to all ability cycle tours and leadership training - Romena is charged with ensuring all communities in Scotland can make the most of woodland and forest spaces, that they are welcomed and have access.
Romena said: “This job is about delivering projects to break down barriers to access to forests and woodlands for those in protected characteristic groups.
“I also work to support and build the volunteer community champions network, and ensure it continues to be self-sustaining, with leaders given the skills to build their networks.
“All of that work feeds up to Scotland’s forestry as a whole. Including advising on inclusivity for Scottish Forestry itself, from recruitment right through to working practice.”
Romena was instrumental in training women leaders who then went on to setting up a Sikh women’s walking group, fundamental to initiating the annual Pride Outside festival as well as new cycle project Woodland Wheels.
She said: “Woodland Wheels brings together urban cycle leaders and a herbalist, showing new cyclists how to access woodlands from an urban setting and teaching them about plants and herbs they encounter on the way.
“There are so many great projects like it across Scotland, because we listen to and work with a community and support them to make the most of the woodland and forest spaces in the way that suits them.”
Romena always had an interest in woodland and outdoor spaces, volunteering at Shotts Nature Park throughout her teenage years.
Her interest in the environment and recycling originally set her on a course to work in wind energy via an undergraduate degree in chemical processing engineering and an energy systems and environmental management Masters.
She said: “I had a strong interest in the engagement side of renewables while I was studying. My original intention was to go into wind energy, but when I graduated there weren’t as many opportunities as there are now.
“Through the practical skills I gained in conservation and forestry as a volunteer, I was able to make the shift into the forestry industry and I’ve been here ever since.
“I love my job, creating safe spaces and opening forests and woodlands up to people who may not see that they belong there, having that positive impact on people’s lives and directly contributing to battling climate change.”
Her early experience also drives Romena’s passion for volunteering.
She added: “I talk to young people all the time about the benefits of volunteering, they’ll build so many skills that employers value, not just ones around forestry but meta skills such as communication.”
Elaine Ellis, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) Sector Manager, said: ““Forestry is a vital part of Scotland’s drive to net zero, there are opportunities across the sector and routes into forestry include apprenticeships, direct entry level jobs as well as going via the college and university sector.
“The recently published Green Jobs in Scotland report showed forestry as a growth sector for Scotland with opportunities across the country.”
The Green Jobs in Scotland report, which was supported by SDS, also showed women are markedly under-represented in green jobs in Scotland.
Romena said: “The gender balance in forestry has very much improved in my time here, but there is still so much opportunity especially in those roles that are really based out in the forests and woodlands themselves.
“There are so many advantages to working in the industry, not least the huge variety in jobs you can do.
“In every one of them you get the benefit of spending at least part of your time outdoors, knowing you are combatting climate change and protecting Scotland’s natural environment for all of us to use and enjoy safely for generations to come.”