Masculinities and femininities in farming systems

“Empowerment” without transformation? A scoping review on women empowerment, masculinities and social norms in agricultural research in Eastern Africa

Amon Mwiine

There is an increasing focus on re-thinking women’s “empowerment” strategic interventions in order to achieve meaningful transformation in gender norms. This move is increasingly characterized by initiatives that deliberately seek to engage women and men, highlighting not only how women’s lives in agricultural communities are interwoven with men’s lives, but also calls for involvement of men in women’s empowerment work to address the underlying social norms, attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate gender inequalities. How have social categories “women” and “men”, and notions of empowerment and masculinities, been conceptualized in agricultural research on women’s empowerment? How have these concepts been deployed in agricultural research and with what implications? This paper draws from a literature review. Search terms included: women’s empowerment, masculinities, gender norms, agency, power relations, rural masculinities and “male involvement in agriculture”. Drawing on literature within agriculture and food systems, seed systems, and nutrition-sensitive agriculture in different regions of Africa and Asia, this paper argues that conceptualization of categories women, men, masculinities and femininities, and the approaches drawn therefrom (the assumptions we work with about women and men), have potential to transform and/or reproduce unequal gender power relations.

Understanding the relationship between femininities and women’s economic empowerment in rural farming communities of Central Uganda

Shimali Fred

Research has documented how men’s behaviors in patriarchal settings affect women’s economic empowerment outcomes, while less attention has been paid to how gender identity constructions around femininities influence these outcomes. We define femininities as gender-based roles and expected behaviors of women in a given community, and economic empowerment as women’s decision-making regarding access and control of productive resources and management of income. This paper presents research on how women and men farmers in rural communities of Central Uganda define what it means to be a woman and how those identity constructions influence women’s economic empowerment. This qualitative case study is based on focus group discussions conducted with Sasakawa Africa Association intervention farmers (28 women and 25 men) of Kiboga District. Six focus group discussions were conducted: two each with women only, men only, and both women and men. Findings reveal co-existence of traditional and progressive femininities, the latter dubbed “unruly” by men and some women. Traditional femininities were depicted as women complying to community values which deter them from financial decision-making and owning productive resources. Progressive femininities on the other hand are noncompliant to these community values and enjoy more economic empowerment. Men valued economically empowered women because they relieve men of financial responsibilities. Incorporating gender-transformative approaches in women’s economic empowerment interventions could decode traditional femininities and increase women’s intrinsic agency within the context of economic empowerment.

Who is a man? Understanding the local gender normative climate for transformative nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions in rural farming communities of Central Uganda

Martha Businge

Local gender normative climate refers to how norms in a community interact with women and men’s agency—their ability to make strategic life choices. Understanding the normative climate includes unpacking the community's expectations of what it means to be a man or “masculinity norms”. Such normative factors interact with and constrain opportunities for women’s equitable participation in agriculture, yet most women’s empowerment literature focuses on factors at an individual level. This ongoing study aims to determine masculinity norms that affect women’s ability to make strategic choices within the Sasakawa Africa Association’s nutrition-sensitive agricultural extension project intervention areas in Kiboga District, Central Uganda. The study utilized an interpretive qualitative case study with data collected from sex-disaggregated focus group discussions with intervention beneficiaries. Findings indicate that the community expectation of who a man should be is informed by family formation and provisioning; dominance in household decision-making and leadership; and community level participation. The normative structures also exempted men from participating in domestic chores and negative sanctions were experienced by men that did so. Gender roles espousing notions like “vegetable growing is a woman’s domain” dissuaded men’s engagement in this activity. Consequently, domestic chores, on top of additional activities from vegetables growing under the project, present an increased labor burden for women. Inability to make strategic life choices (like attending training that would build their capacities in areas important for their development) curtails their economic investments. This calls for development agents’ deliberate efforts to engage both women and men to reframe norms and create new behaviors that will foster gender equality and a harmoniously transformed community.