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«Women-only focus group discussion in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. 17 August 2011 i Version 1 – August 2011 Contents Abbreviations and Acronyms Executive ...»

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Women and men that have been exposed to gender sensitisation are more likely to invest in female children in the same way they invest in male children.

5.1.4 Risks Raising expectations. Gender sensitisation, if undertaking in isolation of activities that address those practical constraints articulated in Section 2.3, may lead to frustration.

Women may be increasingly aware of their rights and feel more capable, but may lack opportunities to do anything to improve their situation. Similarly, many of the root causes of inequality can only be properly addressed through government policy and laws. There are limits to what development programmes, whether market-based or not, can achieve. In many situations, governments have competing priorities, with gender falling low on the list (Kabeer and Subrahmanian 1996).

Targeting only women. If gender sensitisation activities are targeted only to women, men may act as barriers. Many efforts fail because of women’s low engagement in activities specifically designed to target only women. Men actively or passively prevent women from participating, or even from being targeted. In these cases, initiatives run the risk of catering only for women whose husbands are open-minded about their ‘empowerment’. Men are more likely to boycott approaches where they have been excluded (Agarwal 2003; Esplen 2006)l. Fieldwork in Guatemala highlighted this point, with stories of women being stopped from participating in gender trainings once their husbands knew the discussions were about equal rights.

Lack of communication and engagement with the local community. Approaches to gender sensitisation implemented by many NGOs’ initiatives lack communication and engagement with locals. For instance, women’s low participation may stem from the shared belief, between local men and women, that gender approaches seek to mainstream ‘foreign’ concepts. This issue was hotly debated in the 1990s in Latin America, where many organisations were accused by local feminists and female community workers of failing to integrate local approaches to gender and aligning with local women’s efforts to tackle inequality (Ruxton2004).

5.1.5 Recommendations In general, several factors contribute to more effective gender sensitisation in the context of

programmes such as P4P. These factors are:

Strong rationale. Gender sensitisation should have a clear goal, e.g. address discrimination against women and girls and promote equality of opportunities. Situating gender equality and women’s rights within principles of fairness and social justice, and particularly within cooperative values, can be a facilitating factor (Gonzalez Manchón and Macleod 2010)

Contextual knowledge. Any approach should be backed by robust knowledge of the

context, through gender assessment or baselines. This knowledge cannot be limited to the economics of inequality. It is seminal to understand the cultural and customary dimensions, as well as the processes and institutions of socialisation, which contribute to keeping women in a position of inequality and men in a position whereby the acceptance of this inequality is unquestioned.

Addressing the ‘glass-ceiling’. A robust contextual knowledge allows identification of the ‘glass ceiling’ that prevent the advancement of women and that are reproduced by women. For instance, the 2006 Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) reveals that 44 per cent of women, and 23 per cent of men, feel that it is justifiable for a husband to beat his wife if she refuses him sex. A staggering eight in ten women believe that it is justifiable, in some situations, for the husband to beat his wife46. In these situations, women are likely to support cultural practices that are discriminatory.

Inclusiveness. Any approach should be holistic and be targeted at and delivered to women and girls, men and boys. An inclusive approach also helps identifying important ‘entry-points’, e.g. boys and young men can be a force for change if continuously exposed to gender sensitisation.

Positivity. Any approach should be framed by positive intent and non-accusatory language.

Countering unequal gender power relations. Gender sensitisation approaches should try to counter inequality at the micro-level, or the level of the household and communities. This can be done through working with men and boys to develop a language of emotions and encouraging better team work between men and women.

Sympathetic staff. Staff delivering gender training should be sympathetic to and strongly believe in the rationale of the approach.

Embedding into a wider gender strategy. Gender sensitisation should be embedded in a gender strategy. This should link gender sensitisation activities to other measures that aim to promote and facilitate women’s empowerment. Gender training should not be seen as the solution to women’s participation. It should be seen as a tool, in combination with other tools within a specific framework.

5.2 Women’s active group participation The P4P Occasional Paper II highlights the need to support women’s involvement in groups, beyond their membership, in terms of holding leadership positions, partaking in decisionmaking and making their voices heard. WFP does not work directly with individual farmers in P4P, but with farmers’ and traders’ organisations. It is widely assumed that the number of women members in collective organisations may indicate their empowerment, but this may not always be the case. The question goes beyond whether women should actively participate in mixed gender groups to whether their participation will ever be ‘active’ in the absence of other types of interventions, such as female-only groups.





See Ethiopian Demographic and Health Survey (2006), available at http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR179/FR179.pdf.

5.2.1 General constraints There are several barriers to women’s active participation in mixed and women-only groups and their attempts to achieve leadership positions within their communities 47. These are similar to the constraints articulated in Section 2.1 and include in particular such structural constraints as the male-dominated culture and lack of social identity, and more practical challenges such as lack of social and political capital, absence of resources and time constraints48. Some particular issues include the fact that many groups are organised around a specific social identity, e.g. that of farmer, worker, and so forth. In some languages for instance, the word farmer does not have a female equivalent and is never applied to women. Hence the fact that women are not considered to be farmers or workers limits their rationale for joining these groups (Mogues et al 2009; Jiggins et al 1998). This seems to be a barrier particularly in Ethiopia, although there are many cultures where this is not the case.

Similarly, many groups are organised around possessions that women may lack, e.g. land (Carr with Hartl 2010; Develtere et al 2008).

Women may choose not to become involved in FOs and instead become organised in organisations that are more suited to their needs. This may be a type of passive resistance to what women perceive as organisations that do not represent their interests or discriminate again them in other ways (Lyon 2008). Participation may also represent an added burden to existing heavy workloads (Seeley et al 2000). Additionally, FOs or cooperatives, for instance, tend to have institutionalised bureaucratic procedures (e.g.

statuses) that are not easily understood by women who cannot read or are functionally illiterate (Collett and Gale 2009). However, the field work in Ethiopia indicated that these two points may be exaggerated and used by men to restrict women’s participation in groups.

5.2.2 Existing approaches Mixed groups. In certain contexts, where women have more experience of participating in groups, mixed groups are appropriate. There are examples of attempts to mainstream gender issues within such organisations to support women’s participation. For instance, some FOs support women’s participation through separate spaces (Gonzalez Manchón and Macleod 2010).

Women-only groups organised around a specific aim. Without prior experience of groups, women may feel unable to actively participate in mixed-gender groups, speaking out in front of men, or going against their decisions. Many development actors have realised this is a long process and have channelled their efforts into facilitating and promoting women’s active participation in female-only groups and collective structures organised around a commodity or economic objective (e.g. tontines, SACCOs and labour groups). In Africa, women tend to be more active in SACCOs and consumer cooperatives for instance (Develtere et al 2008).

Existing women-only groups. Other development actors that work with female-only groups tend to work with groups that are constituted at local levels, or partner with local On these challenges, please see Ngunjiri (2006).

According to Ngunjiri (2006), there are five main challenges to women’s leadership roles in groups: the reconciliation between private (family) life and public (leadership) roles; class and ethnic bias; challenging authority; lack of visibility within organisational contexts; and opposition from other women.

grassroots organisations with experience in grassroots recruitment and gender awareness. Often these groups are deeply rooted in the community and, although they do have very specific objectives, ultimately their rationale is to end discrimination against women and contribute to an increase in gender awareness, at the community, local and national levels49.

5.2.3 Opportunities Depending on the context and whether mixed groups are appropriate or not, approaches to support active participation of women in groups have been shown to address the practical needs of women and support processes of empowerment. There is little evidence about the relative effectiveness of these different approaches50. From a longer-term perspective and assuming that mixed groups may ultimately be a more sustainable approach to supporting women’s empowerment, the key question becomes the extent to which participation in these groups represents any opportunity for empowerment and whether it supports women’s ultimate participation in mixed-gender groups.

Organising women into women-only groups is considered by many to be a good strategy (Mayoux 2000) to increase access to credit and savings in order to increase overall household income and consumption (Zaman 2001). Self-confidence and esteem, social mobility, political awareness, increased participation in decision-making and increased social capital (Mayoux 2000; Moyle et al 2006; Develtere et al 2008) are among the other positive impacts.

In South Asia there is considerable experience in organising women in self-help groups (SHGs). SHGs are groups of women that get together with a concrete aim (or, in SHGs’ language, ‘action of change’). The aim can be getting funding, credit, a greater share in the market of a specific commodity, and so forth. In the majority of cases SHGs are being used to access credit. Viswa Santhi Balananda Kendram (VSBK) in Andhra Pradesh has been a great proponent and implementer of this approach. The organisation claims that it has allowed women greater access to credit and increased participation in decision-making (Prabhakar 2010). The successes of the SHGs have also been hailed in the context of postdisaster recovery interventions51. There are also examples of women organising to buy or lease land (Niger) or fish ponds (Bangladesh) (FAO 2011b; Pasternak 2011; WB, IFAD, FAO

2009) with successful outcomes.

When it comes to existing women-only groups, evidence from Brazil shows that these organisations were instrumental in achieving changes in the law regulating land titling. Here women are not confined to the household and always had to participate, sometimes in equal measure, in the labour market (e.g. as agricultural labourers). There is a strong local culture of feminism, and many of these approaches are not steered by international NGOs, but by local groups, movements and community-based organisations that put a lot of time Latin America is littered with such examples, from the most grassroots-based organisations like the babassu nut breakers that exist to protect the rights to babassu gathering, or the Centro Comunitario D. Bubu, that addresses food security issues (both in Brazil), to larger but still locally nationally-rooted organisations, such as Manuela Ramos in Peru.

As part of IDS’ longer engagement with WFP more globally, specific research on different group approaches is planned.

See, for instance, UN/ISDR (2007).

and energy into grassroots recruiting and ‘consciousness-raising’ (or gender sensitisation) (Deere and Royce 2009).

Common across all countries where fieldwork took place is women’s preference for womenonly groups. This preference ties to women’s awareness that even if they are in mixed groups, the quality of their participation will be low given that these groups will be a reflection of the society at large and women will not be allowed to take on leadership positions or will not feel comfortable with doing so. The feeling is that in women-only groups there is an immediate shared understanding of needs and a greater sense of safety.

Women also felt that these groups would allow them to practice their leadership qualities comfortably. Feedback from P4P in Mali also confirms these findings. There, the best women sellers are from three women-only groups that have sold more than 80 metric tonnes to WFP through P4P.

5.2.4 Risks

Several risks with each of these approaches exist:

In contexts where mixed groups might be culturally appropriate, there is evidence of instances where men use their wives’ membership in order to gain access to certain benefits (Prakash 2003). Evidence from Ethiopia shows that targets for increased participation of women in FOs can have perverse outcomes. There was often registration of both husbands and wives, but this seemed to be primarily a strategy to access increased benefits, such as fertiliser, rather than granting women increased opportunities. In fact, some of the more gender sensitive cooperatives suggested that targets and quotas were irrelevant as they did not deal with the more structural issues hindering gender equity.



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