How gender transformative approaches in agriculture inspire change for women?

I come from Peru, I am Canadian by love and choice and now I live and work in Malaysia. I have been engaged with poor and excluded women and agriculture most of my life.

I have witnessed the progression of women’s rights activism, practice, and research in developing and developed countries. I have been part of teams on the implementation of several programs following principles of women in development to gender and development.

However, things have not worked well with exception of few initiatives regardless of international aid and donors support. Social and gender gaps still exist and manifest in the difference of what women achieve in relation to men. In rural and urban areas in developing countries, women are less favored.

The Millennium Development Goals Report[1] (2013) informs that despite of some improvements, women are still behind men when accessing resources and assets. Women do not have same opportunities than men. Women’s voices are hushed and these are result of unfair power relations and/or discriminatory entrenched social and gender norms. In agriculture, these generate gender gaps and exacerbate poverty, hunger, food insecurity, malnutrition, low productivity, natural resources and also ecological systems degradation.

Agriculture is still considered men’s terrains. Agricultural institutions and policies consider farmers as men and the ones who represent the families in different institutions (political, social and cultural). Recent analysis on how agricultural resources are allocated endorses persistent gender inequalities that limit women position and status in agriculture. These have a tendency to be the norm and not the exception.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (2011) estimated that bringing the land production cultivated by women up to the levels achieved by men, agricultural productivity in developing countries would increase between 2.5 to 4 per cent. This increase in production would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17%, approximately 100 million people would benefit. At the same time that offers political, social and economic status to women in poor communities.

In order to achieve expectations, things need to be different. The aquatic agricultural systems[2], a research program from the CGIAR, believe that this is possible and for that purpose is considering the gender transformative approach (GTA)[3] as a key element of its research in development approach[4].  The gender transformative approaches (GTA) in concert with participatory action research are essential components of the approach and the engines toward genuine change.

Both include profound changes and responsibility for individual and social transformation of all actors (across scales) from the individual to the systemic by embedding research in development contexts.  These influence policy and decision makers.

Our priority is women empowerment, they have been most affected by the status quo and institutional arrangements dominated by men throughout history. The GTA gathers different actors, involving women and men in spaces where they reflect, recognize and uncover different social and gender dimensions (power dynamics, relations, roles, and norms) and the ways these affect women.

The difference with other approaches is that GTA is not only about women as it includes other gender differentiated groups in agricultural research (young, adult, elderly men and women and other invisible groups). Thus, social, technological, scientific and policy aspects ignored before in agricultural production and livelihoods opportunities are identified and confronted across scales (individual to systemic).

GTA engages with different systems of oppression and discrimination as it deals with other social complexities like culture, race, ethnicity and class to identify and challenge the causes of social inequalities. In addition to contribute to institutional changes, GTA also deals with human development as it involves collective and individual reflection, learning, knowledge, information and communication for transformative change of systems and structures.

The gender transformative approaches in agriculture open spaces for technological, scientific, institutional, social and organizational innovation.

By strengthening, individual and collective capacities and improving organizational cultures and behaviors to sustain capabilities, people are able to nurture networks and linkages. Norms and rules are improved so that influence in policymaking and social change can be possible.

Nothing of this will be possible if players do not commit themselves to go through the transformation process. In WorldFish, we have the possibility of supporting a functional change in the lives of poor women and men and having an influence on people working for a more equal and sustainable world. We all together need to sustain the change. Therefore, various initiatives will be in place this year in order to achieve common transformation and women’s inspirations. Some are gender dialogues, group reflections and engagements that involve partners and staff members in respective contexts allowing them to establish alliances to go together and support each other. I am sincerely convinced that the time for change has arrived…. Let’s go together and finalize undoing businesses.

[1] http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/report-2013/mdg-report-2013-english.pdf

[2] http://www.worldfishcenter.org/tags/aquatic-agricultural-systems

[3] http://www.worldfishcenter.org/news-events/gender-transformative-approach-crucial-successful-agricultural-development

[4] http://www.worldfishcenter.org/resources/publications/research-development-approach-aas

Published by silviasarapuraescobar

Interdisciplinary researcher and scholar with professional experience in agricultural and food systems and gender. For the past ten years, I have worked in different contexts of Latin America, Africa and South East Asia. Converse fluently in Spanish, at an intermediate level in Portuguese and Italian, and at a basic level in French.

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