Engagement with local gender norms key for equitable, sustainable agricultural development, say experts
Agricultural research for development must foster deep, structural and systemic change in gender-based power relations
A provocative new article in the journal Development In Practice uses evidence from the global comparative research initiative GENNOVATE to make a powerful call for changing the way development researchers work to reach greater gender equity in agricultural innovations.
The article authors, including CIMMYT researcher Lone Badstue and CGIAR Research Program Manager Victor Kommerell, point out that gender norms — the social rules that frame what is considered appropriate for a woman and a man to be and do in their society — constitute a critical component for improved agricultural livelihoods that has been largely ignored by agricultural research for development (AR4D).
The views expressed by the authors are informed by experience and evidence from GENNOVATE, a collaborative research initiative among eight CGIAR Research Programs, including the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat on how gender norms and agency interact to shape agricultural change at local levels. They advocate for approaches which engage with local gender norms and challenge underlying structures of inequality.
Drawing on research findings from diverse world regions and agri-food systems, the paper argues that gender norms are part of the enabling — or disabling — environment for agricultural interventions, shaping who is able to learn about, access and benefit from agricultural innovations, and who is not. Agricultural markets, extension services, agricultural development programs and research systems are shaped by and tend to uphold dominating gender norms. The authors argue that for agricultural research for development to contribute seriously towards equitable and sustainable agri-food systems, it must engage with gender norms and power relations to foster deep, structural and systemic change, including within the agricultural research for development system.
The new Gender Social Norms Index released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) confirms the power of gender norms. The index measures how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work, and education, and contains data from 75 countries, covering over 80 percent of the world’s population. It finds that close to 90% of men and women globally hold a pervasive bias and prejudice against women, forming an invisible barrier to women’s equality and progress.
As the process to define and orient One CGIAR moves forward, this paper points to the need for an invigorated research agenda which emphasizes:
- critical self-reflection and introspection among research institutions on the norms they bring to the research process;
- partnerships with civil society and other organizations with long-term, trusted local presence; engagement with both women and men from different social groups on the structures and mindsets that hinder and enable equality and local people’s empowerment;
- sufficient time and resources to accompany a process of social change;
- and mechanisms to scale advances made using gender transformative approaches.
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