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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-only groups tend to be less successful than men-only and mixed groups in accessing new markets for their products and at pursuing new products. Men are more likely to be approached for their products by agricultural companies, who assume that men are the primary producers in the household, whereas they are in fact the primary marketers (Quisumbing and Pandolfelli 2010).

Some recent evidence suggests an inflation of some of the positive impacts of women’s groups, particularly for SHGs. Some NGOs supporting such efforts may have failed to grasp the social complexity of women’s lives, in that they do not consider intrahousehold decision-making and women’s time constraints. Participation is also difficult for poorer women (Husain et al 2010; Rahman 1999) (see also section 5.6 on financial services). As a result of their focus on specific productive activities, there tends to be less justification for SHGs to bring women together around more structural constraints.

However, those groups that organise around issues such as joint land ownership or more integrated livelihoods approaches may constitute more effective routes to sustainable group participation and ultimately empowerment (Kabeer 2010; Agarwal 2003). More grassroots-based women-only groups, which aim at an increase in gender awareness and women’s empowerment as a goal, may also be more effective.

A heavy reliance on women-only groups might be counterproductive in some contexts.

Men may find that women-only groups threaten their authority52. Empowering women Mary Njenga, researcher CIP, personal communication about her work with bead project in Laikipia district in Kenya in the late 1990’s that supported women’s increased incomes. Men thought it was a strategy to take in real-life alliance situations may yield best results, for example by encouraging men to support their wives to participate in certain activities that are crucial for the household set-up. An increase in women-only groups may not translate into overall progress for women, but should rather be treated as a first step. This reiterates the need to take a GAD approach that targets not only women, but women, girls, men and boys within the specific context in which they operate. In particular fieldwork in Guatemala highlighted this point. Women were not allowed to attend women-only activities, particularly training on women’s rights. There is a need to be more family-oriented and take a longterm approach that promotes men cooperating with women.

5.2.5 Recommendations Market-oriented interventions need to address gender norms that hinder women from entering mixed groups and place them at a disadvantage when seeking new market opportunities. Mixed groups may ultimately be a more sustainable approach to supporting women’s empowerment, but this approach may not be an effective tool if there are strong cultural influences that constrain women’s participation. In these societies, women and men have little tradition of working together, of being part of the same social networks. Research into SHGs and other types of women-only organisations points towards the advantage of having women forming and being part of women-only groups as a first step. However, the

effectiveness and transformative potential of actions is enhanced if there is:

A strong justification. Organising women around just one particular issue or need often underestimates the multiple constraints that women face. Women may gain access to credit for example, but this does not mean that they can control the credit or decide where to invest it. A strong justification to be within a group, such as working towards an end to gender discrimination, needs to be set in a wider implementation strategy that tackles multiple constraints.

A strong link to gender sensitisation. It is crucial to link women’s active participation in groups with gender sensitisation. Otherwise, women’s active participation in groups, mixed-gender or not, may well result in their further isolation from the community, particularly from men.

Emphasis on grassroots recruitment. The voluntary nature of belonging to a group should not negate the need to recruit and reach those women who are not likely to join collective structures in the first place and investigate why they do not join. If not done, the result might be only to attract women who, in comparison to others, are already ‘empowered’ and confident enough to join these structures.

Partnerships. Particularly for international organisations and initiatives, it is important to identify partners at grassroots level, to facilitate and promote women’s greater participation in groups.

Strategy to address practical barriers. Participation is hindered by practical constraints such as childcare. Therefore, attempts to increase women’s active participation have to exist within a wider strategy that offers solutions to childcare (see Section 5.3).

Link to capacity development. Mixed groups have been shown to work best with capacity development for women to air their views, make decisions, resolve conflicts, and coexist and mobilise resources (Hovorka et al 2009).

away their influence as household heads and women were denied rights to attend group meetings and work within the project.

Quotas. While quotas may be difficult to implement and maintain, they may be a strategic first step in supporting the involvement of women in mixed groups. They increase women’s visibility and give women a space in which to claim their rights (IFAD 2010), but should be complemented by capacity development, such as women’s leadership training.

5.3 Women’s time use Where there is an expectation that women will contribute economically towards more productive activities there is also a need for measures to offset the unpaid work they are often expected to take on in order to prevent them from having to carry a double burden of work outside and within the home. Women’s time constraints may pose a barrier to women’s active participation in P4P, in terms of their ability to engage in productive activities beyond subsistence and capacity development activities, and to become more active in producer organisations and more confident players in the market.

5.3.1 General constraints to women’s time The gender division of labour in agriculture means that for most rural women in the developing world, work means taking care of farm work, household chores and earning cash to supplement family incomes (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009; Fontana and Natali 2008; Kes and Swaminathan 2006). Existing demands on their time means that women may often lack the capacity to alter the way in which they work in response to economic incentives, to maximise productivity and efficiency, and to enter value chains for commercial products. In addition, women’s roles in the domestic sphere are difficult to substitute and women are limited in their ability to expand their capacities through acquiring education and skills. Poor households depend heavily on their members’ time to survive. Gender patterns of work (particularly heavy burdens for women) might lead to short-term trade-offs between productive and reproductive work, which may in turn have consequences for well-being, such as food insecurity and lack of education for children (Kes and Swaminathan 2006).

5.3.2 Existing approaches to addressing women’s time constraints53 Approaches to addressing women’s time constraints can be divided into a number of


Care facilities for dependants can be an important way to enable women to attend training and capacity development events, particularly during working hours (Khera and Nayak 2009; Fontana with Paciello 2010). Care facilities may go beyond the provision of childcare facilities, as many women also have responsibilities to care for the elderly and the sick. This is a particularly important consideration in areas affected by HIV/AIDS (Kes and Swaminathan 2006).

Alternative sources of energy conserve time and reduce firewood collection chores and fuel consumption, indoor air pollution and carbon emissions. This includes improved wood- and charcoal-burning stoves for cooking and heating; use of more efficient fuels for cooking and lighting such as biogas, bottled gas or liquid ethanol and/or methanol;

Lack of infrastructure makes women’s tasks much more difficult. However, due to the nature of P4P, we have not included discussion of large-scale infrastructure initiatives, such as grid electricity, major roads or piped water.

and decentralised rural energy/electricity systems that are owned and operated by communities or individual entrepreneurs and are based on renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, micro-hydro and biofuels (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009). Unless women have money to pay for these technologies, they need to be connected to credit facilities or freely distributed as men tend to be unwilling to purchase these items (e.g. an open fire is perceived to be free and a stove is expensive to buy).

Low-cost water technologies. Community water schemes can support better availability of water for irrigation and domestic purposes. Women can benefit both practically (in terms of time savings and improved hygiene) as well as strategically (in terms of increased voice and control through their involvement in water associations). However, women can be under-represented in such associations, often meaning that the focus has been on irrigation rather than domestic water use, and payment for services has been beyond the means of the poorest women (Carr with Hartl 2010). Irrigation is also important and low-cost technologies can reduce women’s need to collect water for irrigation purposes (Sabates-Wheeler 2009).

Rural transport technologies or intermediate means of transport (IMT). Women account for the majority of all transport activities in the household (Kes and Swaminathan 2006). Lack of transport is one of the main constraints when women want to access markets. IMTs can support women’s transport needs and include wheelbarrows, bicycles, pushcarts, animal-drawn carts and bush ambulances. Access to transport can change the division of labour within the household, often to women’s advantage. For example men will transport water and fuel if they have access to an IMT.

This can take some of the burden off women and release their time for more productive activities. However, IMT strategies are not without risks (Carr with Hartl 2010)54.

Transport technologies need to be mindful of cultural practices and women’s specific situation. For instance, wheelbarrows are often rejected by women who are used to standing straight while head-loading and who find it physically distressing to bend and push these devices (Carr with Hartl 2010; FAO/IFAD 1998).

Technologies to support planting, weeding and processing. Weeding is the most timeconsuming and physically strenuous task for women on the farm. Technologies can make a huge difference for women and include different types of hoes, lighter animal draught, seeders and cultivators, etc. However, care is needed to ensure that the correct tool is provided. For instance, in Africa long hoes are not seen as suitable for women, whereas donkeys seem to be a culturally appropriate draught animal for women (FAO/IFAD 1998). Similarly, technologies to support processing can be of huge benefit to women, particularly if the aim is to support production for markets. This can include grinding mills, cassava graters or oil expellers. For instance, grating a basin of cassava can take up to two hours by hand and just one minute with a grinder (Kes and Swaminathan 2006). Processing 20kg of sorghum can be reduced from two to four hours manually to two to four minutes in a mill. Again, such technologies must make sure they do not reproduce and even reinforce existing inequalities. For instance, milling has been In one project in South Africa, the impact on women was actually negative as men used motorcycles to collect fuel wood for commercial use from resources closest to the homestead, forcing women to travel even further to collect fuel wood for domestic use (Carr with Hartl 2010).

shown to open up economic opportunities for men rather than women and tends to exclude the poorest women who cannot afford to pay for services (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009).

Conservation or minimum tillage agriculture can overcome critical labour peaks for land preparation and weeding by planting directly into mulch or cover crops, reducing the need for weeding and the use of herbicides (Bishop-Sambrook 2002; Steiner et al 2004).

There are challenges to this practice from a cultural perspective. No-tillage practices can be seen as lack of proper land management and lack of clean soil beds can be seen as laziness. Projects to support these practices have been mixed. For example, in a FAO supported programme in Kenya and Tanzania, yields increased and time spent on land preparation, planting and weeding was reduced, reducing the pressure on women.

However, women rural labourers lost out as they received fewer opportunities to work in planting and seeding (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009).

5.3.3 Opportunities Experience shows that most projects that integrate some kind of measure to address women’s time constraints tend to meet women’s practical needs by granting them access to new assets (technologies) and freeing up their time. These approaches do not tend to address women’s strategic needs of ownership and control over resources. In other words, they can be seen as gender aware approaches, but do not tend to, at least in isolation, address gender-specific constraints and support transformation of gender relations.

However, if they allow women to take part in income-generating activities, as may become the case with P4P, this has the potential to support women’s integration into more marketoriented agricultural production and change women’s status within the household and their communities (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009).

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