Gender norms in food systems

Learning from positive deviance in gender and fisheries in the Solomon Islands

Dr Anouk Ride

This paper is an initial exploration of to what extent a community (considered exceptional in community-based resource management [CBRM] in a Pacific context) could be considered a deviation from gender norms; how this can be observed and demonstrated through measuring and assessing influence; and some causal factors behind any positive deviation that exists in a coastal community heavily reliant on fishing and aquatic foods for nutrition and livelihoods. The study used a qualitative research approach, which involved 13 in-depth interviews in the community of Ambitona, in East Kwaio, Malaita Province (7 women and six men) accompanied by observation of decision-making over a period of three years. Results from the interviews suggest that in this case of positive deviance from exclusionary social norms, a combination of higher participation in the fishery by women, attitudes supporting women in decision-making roles in other sectors of community life, and an inclusive style of leader led to the increased participation of women in the CBRM committee and decisions in the fishery. The results indicate that  researchers and development agencies need to not only look at who fishes or makes decisions, but who initiates management processes and what local factors set norms around women’s and men’s roles in work and decision-making.

Gender norms and women's empowerment in dairy-related businesses in Tanzania: The case of Kilimanjaro and Tanga regions

Esther Leah Achandi

Although women play a major role in the dairy subsector in Tanzania, they still face several barriers to accessing and benefiting from marketing of livestock and livestock related products. In particular, gender norms affect their participation and access to benefits from livestock value chains. This study uses a qualitative methodology to explore gender norms that affect women’s engagement in dairy-related businesses and the local conceptualization of empowerment.

Initial findings indicate that; In the past, a woman’s role was to take care of her husband, children and cows therefore women often work from home. Men do not sell milk in the market and do not cut fodder for sale except fodder for their own cattle (in Moshi, Kilimanjaro) thus such activities were therefore mainly done by women. Traditionally, a man was responsible for external matters and men were thus more mobile and better networked than women. A woman is a pambo la nyumba (household decoration) and cannot take care of the children and cows at the same time (in Muhweza, Tanga); therefore, few women engaged in dairy-related businesses. A woman should not take a cow to mate with a bull nor engage in cattle artificial insemination and because of this norm, businesses providing such services were predominantly owned by men.

Women's engagement in livestock-related businesses is greatly hinged on existing norms, as is their empowerment. Therefore, interventions seeking to engage with women's empowerment ought to take gender norms into consideration.

Improving inclusion of women in agricultural value chains in Papua New Guinea

Lucia Carrillo

In this study, we analyzed three key value chains in Papua New Guinea (poultry, sweet potato and fresh vegetables) aiming to draw out information on women’s involvement in various nodes within each value chain, as well as the barriers women typically face to benefiting fully from participation at various nodes. Using the 2018 Papua New Guinea Rural Household Survey on Food Systems (RSFS) datasets, we then investigate whether and how particular norms related to women’s economic participation are influencing their employment and entrepreneurship outcomes. Our strategic review of the literature reveals that women are heavily involved in all three value chains, but more so in production and sales than in (often lucrative) mid-stream nodes—often due to barriers to education and skills, mobility and access to market information. Empirical analysis suggests that women’s economic participation (especially their operation of non-farm enterprises [NFEs] and engagement in sales jobs and commercial farming) is associated with greater participation of women in household decision-making and improvements in household welfare. Gender norms opposing women’s economic participation, however, decrease the likelihood of women informing household decision-making – particularly for the case of women’s ownership of NFEs. The results provide a strong business case for alleviating norms that keep women out of certain activities and, more generally, for expanding opportunities for women’s participation in key value chains in the agriculture and livestock sectors in Papua New Guinea. This study means to guide policymakers and stakeholders toward ways of improving economic opportunities and inclusiveness in the agriculture and livestock sectors.

Is forum theater a gender-transformative tool? Experience from Bangladesh

S M Faridul Haque

Social norms, values and practices, in most cases, create barriers to women’s involvement in income-generating activities. The aquaculture sector is one example of such a field, where women’s limited participation is determined by a set of sociocultural factors. Forum theater could be an effective tool to break these barriers due to its participatory and bottom-up nature. This paper focuses on the effectiveness of forum theater as a tool of a gender-transformative approach. It examines the efficiency of forum theater to enable people to identify and adopt alternatives to the existing gender-biased practices. A qualitative study was conducted in March 2022 with 30 women and 30 men in northwestern Bangladesh. The findings show that forum theater creates an enabling environment of peer learning and hence offers the opportunity for people to accept new practices. This article illustrates the importance of forum theater as a gender-transformative tool to ensure women’s participation and benefit from the aquaculture sector.