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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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For instance, in Mali a project that supplies Multifunctional Platforms to committees run by women significantly contributed to reducing rural women’s unpaid work and increased profit of current activities. However, evidence suggests that this profit was spent on improving community facilities and not on helping the women to start up new productive, income-earning enterprises. There was also no evidence of changes in the division of labour between women and men, or other changes in household dynamics. In other words, these platforms were gender aware but not gender transformative, at least when the research was taking place. To support more transformative outcomes, issues of gender inequality in other areas of women’s lives would have required addressing. For instance, at the time planned gender training with staff and partners had not been implemented and the training that women took part in was mostly technical (Kabeer 2010).

5.3.4 Risks

Addressing women’s time constraints may have unintended consequences:

Providing technologies that improve productivity of men’s tasks often means more work for women, e.g. a tractor to support clearing land may mean more weeding and processing for women. Even if technologies are specifically for women’s activities, the time released may mean that women continue to work for their husbands.

Labour-saving technologies may have the effect of leaving poor, landless rural women labourers unemployed. They may have been supporting themselves through undertaking labour-intensive activities in weeding and processing (WB, FAO, IFAD 2009;

Paris 2007) In order for the use of labour-saving technologies to be sustainable, proper training is needed. This might be on how to use, maintain and repair a technology, or making sure that there is financial sustainability (Carr with Hartl 2010), e.g. keeping money for operating costs (fuel, labour), spare parts, hiring specialised labour to carry out repairs, depreciation and eventual replacement.

5.3.5 Recommendations Work to change mindsets in rural communities to move towards more equitable workloads between women and men and the acceptance by men of the need for and benefits of additional support for women. This might involve disseminating examples of women overcoming cultural barriers to use labour-saving technologies, and practices and information on the economic value of women’s time in subsistence activities (FAO/IFAD 1998; Fontana with Paciello 2010).

Consider labour requirements of the farming system as a whole, rather than individual enterprises. It is important to assess the best approaches to addressing women’s time constraints, such as the capacity to hire additional labour to cope with labour peaks and the need for animal traction as a priority technology (FAO/IFAD 1998). This should be both for activities performed by women in relation to priority commodities, as well as other household tasks.

Enable women to access labour-saving technologies, ensuring that women are able to engage in technology training and capacity development initiatives and have access to credit to afford these technologies.

Involve women users in the development, demonstration, adaptation and application of labour-saving technologies and practices tailored to their needs and conditions.

Work with tool manufacturers to ensure that they conduct market research and develop tools more appropriate for women. This means creating better links between women farmers and technology developers.

5.4 Functional literacy The literature shows that access to education and training is a key determinant of highproductivity agricultural employment (especially for female workers) (FAO, IFAD, ILO 2010;

ALINe 2011). In general, women are less educated and more likely to be illiterate and functionally illiterate than men, as well as to lack numeracy skills. Low levels of literacy may constrain women’s access to extension as the differing levels of literacy are often not considered when designing extension materials. This means that women have less access than men to information and knowledge. Literacy is also connected with confidence.

Women with low literacy levels may lack the confidence to participate in training or to seek help from trainers if they do participate. They also tend to experience difficulties in accessing credit and do not play an active role in the commercialisation of their products.

5.4.1 General constraints Literacy should not be narrowly defined as the levels attained within a formal education system. Yet UNESCO’s definition of literacy is more encompassing: literacy is the ‘ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society55. This definition goes beyond the narrow interpretation of literacy as being able to read and write and incorporates the ability to use those skills to function in society, i.e. functional literacy.

Literacy in formal education. It is undeniable that school attendance plays a pivotal role.

Currently educational opportunities for boys and girls are still highly gender biased for a variety of reasons, including religious and cultural traditions, and the longer working days of rural girls. The integration of women in agricultural development programmes and rural labour markets may have adverse effects on girls’ and boys’ schooling given that children are withdrawn from school, either to participate in the labour market or to replace their mother in household maintenance and childcare activities or on the farm (FAO, IFAD, ILO 2010; Murray et al 2010).





Literacy in adulthood. Specific or general adult training to support literacy for participants may run into a number of difficulties when it comes to recruiting women, from their workloads and their lack of mobility to cultural norms and the fact that women bear children at a younger age, (Puchner 2003).

5.4.2 Existing approaches

Three main approaches to improving women’s functional literacy can be distinguished:

Improvement in formal education. As seen in the gender profiles of the regions in Table 3, there has been a marked improvement in the formal education sector in developing countries but there is still a large gap between men and women in literacy rates (Tembon and Fort 2008). One particularly good example is Uganda, where universal primary education has been achieved. However, the success in Uganda lies in the decentralised administration and management of education, a measure that has implied a massive investment in capacity building, and in an explicit priority given to education as a poverty-reduction strategy (Riddell 2007).

Adapting literacy-training programmes. For instance, FondeAgro, supported by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), recruited private service-providers to implement an approach to extension that prioritised ‘learning-bydoing’ and ‘farmer-to-farmer’ learning. High rates of female illiteracy among target women demanded the use of simple, visual methodologies. The FUDEMAT-FVBC consortium, established a strategic alliance with a national literacy programme, ‘Yes, I can’, because female illiteracy was recognised as the main obstacle to women’s learning processes and to developing women leaders (Farnworth 2010).

Integrated literacy training. Rather than focusing on just improving literacy of women, some development initiatives include literacy training as part of broader capacity development activities. This approach may support a more functional approach to Within this broad definition of literacy, we also include numeracy.

literacy training, as the training will be tied to specific activities that women are or will be involved in. A review of training for smallholder women farmers showed that women are more likely to value literacy training if they see tangible evidence of how it would benefit them and if it was linked to their other activities (Collett and Gale 2009).

Peer training. Peer training has advantages in terms of accessibility, relevance and recruitment of members with low confidence, and in reducing the stigma attached to literacy training (Collett and Gale 2009; Taylor 2010).

Alternatives to education and training. Some agencies have illustrated the benefits of using innovative group approaches to overcoming the barriers of women's illiteracy, using video. The rural wing of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) used video as the means by which groups of largely illiterate rural women recorded and edited short films about their own farm and household environment, needs, problems and solutions. Armed with these testimonials, they are demanding and receiving attention from district and provincial agricultural extension services, input supply agencies and rural banks. They are also using videos as tools for mobilising and communicating their experiences with women in neighbouring villages (Jiggins et al 1998).

5.4.3 Opportunities

Literacy skills tend to be a prerequisite for many processes of empowerment, including:

Women’s overall lower literacy levels have a domino effect in terms of women’s access to a number of resources, including credit, knowledge capital, and social and political capital. A good level of literacy is ever more important in the rural context and can support agricultural practices and boost productivity Women’s increased literacy can have spill-over effects in terms of children’s education attainment, as women who undergo literacy training see the benefit of knowledge attainment in general and literacy skills in particular (Collett and Gale 2009).

5.4.4 Risks As an isolated intervention, literacy training will rarely promote transformative outcomes or even support a gender aware approach unless coupled with supporting interventions. For instance, a study of literacy programmes in four villages in Mali notes that women who had access to literacy programmes did not have markedly better lives than women without access. Despite the presence of literacy programmes in the villages, it was difficult for women to become literate, and women who had obtained literacy skills rarely used them.

The author argues that subtle ideological forces in the communities made it difficult for literacy to bring about socio-economic change in women’s lives and ‘women’s literacy’ had been appropriated into the prevailing male-dominant socio-political culture. The study indicates that simply providing literacy skills may not guarantee positive consequences for women in certain contexts (Puchner 2003).

Additionally, women’s lower literacy levels are often used as an argument to exclude them from more market-oriented initiatives which can support women’s economic empowerment. Women’s ability to lead is also questioned on the basis of their insufficient numeracy and literacy skills. However, in an interesting study of African women leadership, Ngunjiri (2006) concluded that the greatest hindrance to women’s access to leadership positions is pervasive unequal power relations between men and women, aggravated by women’s exclusion from the right social networks.

5.4.5 Recommendations Considering the strategy and scope of P4P, including literacy training as part of existing capacity development activities seems to be the best way of supporting women’s literacy in

P4P. This training should be:

Functional. Training should be linked to the particular activities that women will be involved in as part of their participation in P4P, including more market-oriented functional literacy training. For instance, in Mozambique women’s participation in functional literacy training has promoted women’s involvement in trading activities (BSF 2009 in Gallina 2010). This was reinforced by the field work. Whenever questions around the need for training were approached, in no situation did women mention the need for literacy and/or numeracy on its own. In Ethiopia, for instance, women connected training with purpose, and purpose would have to come first. Women would suggest having training tied to whatever activities would be most appropriate for them to engage in and in the context of a plethora of diverse livelihood strategies.

Accessible. Training should use accessible materials and be conducted in local dialects. It should also be timed according to women’s availability. This might mean day training rather than residential training or evening classes. To deal with women’s time constraints, training should be linked to efforts to provide childcare facilities or laboursaving technologies. The location might also be important and training should be undertaken in a location where women feel comfortable.

Alternatives. In situations where women’s confidence is particularly low, peer-to-peer training might be an alternative. Where formal training is not possible, more practical methods of extension and other ways of overcoming illiteracy are needed (see Section

5.5 below).

5.5 Access to agricultural extension, training and information To support women’s productive activities, they need as much support as men in terms of agricultural training and capacity development, as well as accurate agricultural and market information. The literature shows that agricultural extension and training (AET) for women is vital to improve smallholder productivity and support rural livelihoods (Saito 1994; Collett and Gale 2009; Jiggins et al 1998; Kahan 2007; WB, FAO, IFAD 2009), and women are as interested as men in accessing the services of extension agents (Jiggins et al 1998) and not just the home economics that has traditionally been the focus of female extension.

5.5.1 Constraints There are a number of barriers that prevent women’s access to extension services. These are often multi-faceted and stem from beliefs about women’s position in their communities

and families:

Extension services focus primarily on improving crop yields of marketed or internationally-traded crops where men have traditionally focused their efforts and which women may be unable to benefit from (Jiggins et al 1998).

Women lack time and mobility which hinders them from participating in training, particularly in the residential training opportunities that have been part of extension models.



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