Gender Transformative Approaches: Methods and findings 

Soraya Hassanali, Global Affairs Canada


Caitlin Shannon, CARE USA

Can gender-transformative approaches in agriculture be a WIN-WIN for food security, income and gender equality?
Objective: Conventional approaches to gender mainstreaming and gender integration have focused on closing gender gaps in access to resources, information, and technologies without addressing the underlying causes of gender inequality.
Methodology: Conducted in Burundi, this research compared the impact of a gender transformative approach – EKATA (Empowerment through Knowledge and Transformative Action) –to a conventional gender mainstreaming (Gender Light) approach and a control on agricultural productivity, household wealth, food security, gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Results: A gender transformative approach resulted in higher adoption rates of improved technologies, higher production, and greater improvements in dietary diversity for women, as compared to a Gender Light approach or control. More households in the EKATA group had moved up the wealth ladder at study end, compared to the those in Gender Light or control group. The largest gains in women’s empowerment (using the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index score) were observed among woman in the EKATA group – 84% increase at end-line among that group as compared to a 31% increase among women in the Gender Light group. The proportion of women who were empowered and of those achieving gender parity with their spouses was the highest in households in the EKATA group. In terms of cost benefit ratio, the EKATA approach had a ratio of 5:1 compared with 3:1 and 2:1 ration for Gender Light and control groups, respectively.
Implications: These results show that implementing a gender-transformative approach can lead to improvements in food security, wealth and gender equality compared to other traditional approaches.


Cynthia McDougall, WorldFish

Gender Transformative Approaches for Food Systems Transformation: New Methodological Insights
The session objective is to create common ground and understanding on methods for gender transformative approaches (GTA), in particular in relation to food systems. Specifically, the session will share the key findings and message of the Working Paper on Gender Transformative Approaches that is being developed in 2021 by the GENDER Platform Method Module’s Working Group on GTA. By the time of the Conference the paper will be completed and ready for sharing. The focus of the session will be on a synthesis of current tools, strategies and methods, good practice guidance and tips related to the transformation of gender norms.
In particular, it will focus on:

  • formative methods and tools for understanding gender norms
  • strategies and tools for catalysing changes in gender norms (this could also include action research tools such as experimental games, participatory community planning), at scale
  • methodologies, methods and tools for measuring changes in gender norms along with understanding the underlying reasons

Across these areas, the session will flag issues of intersectionality as well as recognize the interest in change at scale


Isabelle Droy, Les Afriques dans le Monde (LAM, UMR CNRS 5115), Bordeaux, and Elisabeth Hofmann, University Bordeaux Montaigne / Les Afriques dans le monde, France

Development projects as arenas for gender transformative action: The participatory-action-research project ARPEGE in Madagascar
In spite of a growing official recognition of women rights, gender inequalities persist, particularly in rural areas. The specificity of local cultures makes it difficult to take them into account in development projects and whenever methods or tools prove their efficiency in peculiar contexts, they are hard to scale up. At the intersection of the individual (micro) and community (meso) level, and the macro-level, with national and global policies promoting women’s empowerment, development projects may be considered as places of confrontation between social players. During the life span of projects, intermediaries make iterative and permanent adjustments between theoretical norms and policies, specific forms of practice and daily management of projects. Little is known about how “gendered” methods and representations – as formal “professional norms” – are re-negotiated and re combined with other “social norms” among the development organisations themselves, at the level of the implementation team and with the “target” population. In order to enhance the transformation of gender norms, through better gender mainstreaming in project implementation processes, we are conducting a Participatory Action-Research (named ARPEGE) in Madagascar, with a team of researchers and practitioners from three NGOs (Agrisud, Gret, ID) in three rural development projects. The goal is to build archetypal methods for contextualizing an integrated gender approach in development projects. A ToC has been designed to articulate the process of scaling of action research findings and to adapt the research to other contexts, based on an intervention logic and increasing awareness and evidence of potential impacts, constraints and paradoxes of scaling initiatives.


Shruti Sharma, University of Georgia, USA

Training and shifting gender norms: Evidence from a training intervention in rural Nepal
Skill development training programs are widely practiced policy instrument to improve female labor force participation and her agency. However, such training intervention can also liberalize gender norms and attitudes around women working outside the household. While previous studies link progressive change in gender attitudes and increased female labor force participation, they do not explicitly look at the shift in these norms around women’s work and her mobility in a household through training intervention. We use a panel dataset from a training in Nepal to empirically capture the effects of improved labor market opportunities on both a woman and her families’ (husband and mother-in-law) gender attitudes that affects their future-oriented behavior. Using two stage randomization, 150 of 300 women were randomly invited to be trained as community animal health workers (CAHW). We estimate both local average treatment effects (LATE) and intent to treat (ITT) effects of being a CAHW (or being invited to CAHW training) relative to not being a CAHW (or not being invited to CAHW training) on their gender attitudes. We also estimate an enhanced specification in which controls for additional baseline women and household characteristics are chosen using the Lasso double-selection method. Preliminary results indicate that women who became CAHWs hold more gender regressive attitude around female work and her agency. This work provides a unique understanding of how a women-focused training intervention reshapes women’s role in society and in the household and how individual perceptions are formed that affects future-oriented behavior for young women in the household.


Kathleen Colverson, University of Florida, USA

Engaging men in supporting maternal and child consumption of milk and other animal source foods in Rwanda
Maternal and child nutrition practices, including consumption of milk and animal source foods, are considered the responsibility of women in many low- and middle-income countries. However, men can influence nutrition in their households through their decision-making, control of resources, and social support. Despite the role of gender and the importance of men in influencing nutrition in their households, most nutrition programs target women and men are not comfortable participating. This project explored methods of engaging men more actively in household nutrition through a combination of training and communication materials tailored to meet their needs. Training materials were developed after extensive field research with men and women using focus groups and key informant interviews. These materials were used to train local partners on providing nutrition education to men, and assess the effectiveness of changes in household nutrition before and after the training. Due to Covid restrictions, the final results are pending, but should be available by the conference. The implications of this research could improve overall household nutrition, particularly as it relates to consumption of animal source foods by women and children.


Emily Hillenbrand, Cornell University, USA, and Esther Lupafya, Soils Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC)

Using Farmer Participatory Research to Address Gender Norms in Malawi
Participatory farmer research that is truly farmer- and community-led is a key element of a gender-transformative approach to research, as it transforms top-down research relationships. Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities (SFHC) in Malawi is a farmer-led non-profit organization engaged in long-term farmer participatory research to address the interrelated challenges of soil infertility, food and nutrition insecurity, climate change, and gender inequality in Northern Malawi. Issues of social and gender equity have been at the heart of SFHC approach to agroecology, and SFHC has documented important programmatic adjustments they have made to challenge gender norms, such as involving men equally in nutrition and caregiving training activities. Still, SFHC has less evidence about the specific mechanisms by which SFHC’s gender activities—and men’s engagement in them—may improve food security and gender outcomes. A participatory research design is being set up with SFHC, to pilot-test a gender-transformative approach. This presentation discusses SFHC’s previous lessons learned on addressing gender through farmer-led research, and it highlights key findings on gender norms from a 2020 baseline study carried out by SFHC researchers in four SFHC communities in Northern Malawi. These four communities were purposively selected to represent high-migration and low-migration communities, with either some or no prior exposure to SFHC’s gender activities. The baseline information will be used to identify entry points and key gender issues to address, within a participatory, gender-transformative intervention.