This week I attended a workshop In Nairobi, Kenya that addressed the relationship between agriculture and Gender Equality. I realized that many of us implement ‘gender blind’ programmes and understanding of the importance of Gender Equality is vital if the coffee sector (and other agricultural sectors) is to achieve its potential.
Gender equality is a goal that has been accepted by governments and international organizations. It is enshrined in international agreements and commitments. There are many ongoing discussions about what equality and equity mean (and do not mean) in practice. It is clear that there are global patterns to inequality between women and men. For example, women tend to suffer violence at the hands of their intimate partners more often than men; women’s political participation and their representation in decision-making structures lag behind men’s; women and men have different economic opportunities; women are over-represented among the poor; and women and girls make up the majority of people trafficked and involved in trade and other more labourious works. These issues – and others – need to be addressed in efforts to promote gender equality.
Many studies have shown that cash crop yields on plots managed by women are lower than those managed by men. This is not because women are worse farmers than men, indeed, extensive evidence shows that women are just as efficient as men, they simply do not have access to the same inputs. If they did, their yields would be the same as they would produce more and overall agricultural production would increase. The relationship between gender equality and agricultural productivity can be explored using the Social Institutions and Gender Inequality (SIGI) Index.
The SIGI index reflects social and legal norms such as property rights, marital practices and civil liberties that affect women’s economic development. Countries with lower levels of gender inequality tend to achieve higher averages of coffee production than countries with higher levels of inequality.
Various approaches must be explored in the coffee sector to try close the gender gap in a way that is just to both men and women, if progressive improvement in the coffee sector (and all others) is to be achieved. Many ways greed on during the workshop that could be assessed include;
ü Ask questions about the responsibilities, activities, interests and priorities of women and men, and how their experience of problems may differ
Consider possible differences and inequalities between women and men and how they could be relevant to the issue. While each situation or issue should be examined on its own merits, the process should begin with reflection on the gender factors that could relate to the problem or issue (in other words, how and why gender differences and inequalities are relevant) and that therefore require further investigation.
ü Question assumptions about “families”, “households” or “people” that may be implicit in the way a problem is posed or a policy is formulated
The importance of making the assumptions about these aggregate terms explicit and assessing whether they are valid has been demonstrated by research in the last two decades. Studies have shown, for example, that “people” respond to economic changes in gender-specific ways because gender is a major influence on their access to resources, responsibilities and alternatives. Research has also shown that resources are not necessarily distributed equitably among household members, nor is there equitable decision-making about the use of these resources. Ignoring these factors may result in misleading analyses of issues or inaccurate assessments of likely policy outcomes.
ü Obtain the data or information to allow the experiences and situation of both women and men to be analyzed
Sex-disaggregated data should be used at all times to gain a more informed understanding of an issue or situation and to allow gender differences and inequalities to be identified and addressed. For example, there is a better basis for developing agricultural policy and targeting extension programmes if there is information that goes beyond the number of“farmers” and what they produce. Disaggregating this data by sex, and asking questions about who does what, would not only provide information on the number of women and men farmers, but would also allow for assessments of whether there are differences and inequalities between women and men in the crops they produce and the work they do.
ü Seek the inputs and views of women as well as men about decisions that will affect the way they live
There are often significant differences between women and men on priorities. For example, in a post-disaster situation women may place immediate priority on clean water and shelter while men may prioritize the re-establishment of economic activities. This is not to say that one priority should be privileged over another, but that there should be an awareness (obtained through specific investigation) of the potential differences between women and men so that all issues can be factored into an understanding of a situation. Since women’s participation in decision making is generally lower than that of men, specific strategies are generally required to ensure that women’s voices are heard.
ü Ensure that activities where women are numerically dominant (including domestic work) receive attention
Although there has been increased recognition of the productive input of domestic and ‘caring’ work in recent years, these activities are still often overlooked, unmeasured and undervalued. Similarly, women’s agricultural tasks and crops have also received less attention than those of men in policies and programmes to improve productivity.
ü Avoid assuming that all women or all men share the same needs and perspectives
There are differences among women and among men that relate to class, religion, age, ethnicity and other factors. Women and men are not homogenous groups. It is important not to generalize across diverse populations, but rather to consider the ways that needs and perspectives of individuals are influenced by a range of factors, including gender.
ü Analyze the problem or issue and proposed policy options for implications from a gender perspective and seek to identify means of formulating directions that support an equitable distribution of benefits and opportunities
Given gender differences and inequalities within societies, it cannot be assumed that women and men will have equal opportunities for participation or will benefit equally from development inputs. Special attention is needed to ensure that initiatives are not assumed to affect all people in the same manner, as this could unintentionally increase gender inequality.