CGIAR Gender News

Elevating women’s role to improve food systems

Photo: CIP.

Women play a vital role in growing, processing and marketing food in developing countries, yet they have less access to assets, training and opportunities than men, and thus earn considerably less. While unfair to women, this is also a tragedy for their communities and countries, since enabling girls and women to achieve their full potential is essential for building the productive, resilient and sustainable food systems that developing nations need.

As part of a global effort to identify and advance ways to empower women and unleash the benefits of their full productive power and participation, a group of international experts recently launched a new CGIAR platform known as GENDER, for ‘Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results’.

“We are trying to work across the entire CGIAR system to innovate and incorporate gender into everything we do,” said Nicoline de Haan, Director of GENDER hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). “We want to put gender equality at the heart of research.”

De Haan explained that the platform connects researchers across the globe who are studying the gender implications of cultural norms, systems, value chains and policies for everything from farming and livestock production to water management, in an effort to identify aspects that create barriers for women.

She added that because such details are invisible to most people, and are often linked to cultural norms or traditions, changing them is challenging. Generating evidence is an essential first step to convincing people when change is necessary, and to develop methods for achieving it. By doing this, and building alliances, the GENDER Platform aims to contribute to a process that will result in greater gender equality and better lives for smallholder farmers.

According to Stephen Potter, Director of Food Security at Canada’s Department of Global Affairs, the platform will result in new partnerships and contribute to gender-responsive policies that enable women to overcome obstacles and make greater contributions to their countries’ development.

“We must move beyond simply thinking of women as contributors to agricultural value chains to considering them as leaders and developers of sustainable food systems,” Potter said. “It is only when women’s knowledge and men’s knowledge are applied on equal footing that the CGIAR will be able to achieve it’s desired impact.”

Potter joined de Haan and other experts in gender and agriculture for the virtual launch of the GENDER Platform on September 7, in the framework of the AGRF Summit 2020. That event, called “Rising up together: Women’s role in transforming Africa’s food systems,” was moderated by Vivian Atakos, the International Potato Center’s regional communication specialist for Africa, and included participants on several continents.