By Eileen Nchanji (International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Nairobi, Kenya)
After joining the CIAT/PABRA (Center for International Tropical Agriculture/Pan African Bean Alliance), I was on the lookout for collaborations with gender scientists, especially from CGIAR. However, I was not successful. Last month, I received an invitation to attend the third Gender Research and Integrated Training (GRIT) workshop with gender and agricultural scientist from a CGIAR/Penn State University collaboration. I was excited and took up the invitation. I decided not to ask questions from past trainees to keep a fresh look at the training. I was happy to meet and share knowledge with other scientists. Moreover, we were asked to bring proposals to work on, so that was a plus.
In was only in the first week of attending the different courses offered at the GRIT program that I had a better understanding of the GRIT workshop objectives. I understood it was a platform to strengthen the research capacity of CGIAR gender scientists in collaboration with Penn State University (PSU) gender and agricultural scientists. GRIT is a forum for networking and facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations which help develop our work and career. Additionally, it provides opportunities for us to sharpen our publishing skills and write proposals susceptible to get funded. PSU also offers mentorship to institutionalise cooperation within GRIT and beyond.
As a gender specialist from CIAT/PABRA, I saw this workshop in a new light: Getting my proposal writing and publishing skills sharpened, and a perfect opportunity to develop a strategic gender roadmap for CIAT/PABRA projects! This workshop allowed me to exchange ideas about getting funding to organise regional workshops on gender norms.
Have I met my objectives? How have I been influenced by the workshop and its participants, and the other way around?
GRIT is the first meeting I have attended with a cross-section of CGIAR gender scientists and with colleagues from other parts of the world like Asia and America but all with similar functions and expectations. All trainees expected to present their work and learn from each other. It was unusual and exciting to experience stereotypes from gender colleagues and others. At times I was taken aback and felt the need to reposition myself. I think we all had a positive influence on each other. Moreover, the mix from different countries and CGIAR centers brought diversity and space for learning among others about new methodologies.
It was also rewarding to find that colleagues face the same bottlenecks in gender research: although gender is integrated into most project designs, gendered budgeting is usually missing, and gender researchers are sometimes invited only halfway through the project. We reflected and debated how to overcome these challenges, and find solutions adapted to centres, types of projects and budgets. We all appreciate donors’ requirements to include gender in all projects. It has given us gender specialists more opportunity to ‘walk the gender talk.’
I met my objectives and then more. I learned methodologies and theories I never knew of or feared using in the African context. The farm visits were an eye-opener as I learned how religion, learning, wealth, class, race shape farmer practice and I could easily see how this works in Africa. These nuances have heightened my sense of gender work now and for the future. The GRIT courses touched on relevant issues to our gender research: gender methodology and epistemology, monitoring and evaluation, grant writing, spatial analysis, participatory action research, qualitative big data, NVivo, peer reviewing, work-and-life balance, CV tutorials, interactions between natural and social scientists, food-water-energy nexus, etc. Some of these courses were technical and others quite practical, but all interesting and relevant if we want to revolutionise how gender research is carried out.
I solicit a fourth GRIT workshop.