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Promoting Inclusive Markets and Financial Systems

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Taking Gender Integration Further: Giving Women the Skills They Need to Compete in Markets

by on Jul 22, 2014  |  posted in Annual Conference  |  4 Comments
AdvanceIn some ways, applying a gender approach to a market-oriented activity is contradictory. You want your beneficiaries to make decisions based on sound business principles while also increasing women’s participation. But the reality is that women disproportionately lack the needed business skills and resources and may not be able to actively participate without a leg up. A recent report by the World Bank Group and the ONE campaign showed that women farmers are significantly less productive than men farmers in Africa due to long-standing gender inequalities.

The USAID-funded Feed the Future Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE) Program in Ghana adopted a dual strategy to address this challenge. The first approach was to mainstream gender into all activities and ensure women had equitable access to project resources. The second was to implement discreet activities that supported women directly or to adapt standard activities that were more relevant to women. Interventions that were tailored to specifically benefit women, such as numeracy training, listenership clubs, and lower cost share requirements for equipment grants, allowed the project to reach and positively impact more women.

This dual strategy was successful in increasing women’s participation in the target value chains. While the project had an overall target of 30 percent women beneficiaries, it had limited control over who nucleus farmers (NFs) chose as outgrower farmers, and there were concerns that we would not be able to achieve this target. NFs selected outgrower farmers based on an estimation of how productive and responsible they would be going forward.

However, NFs observed that when women had access to inputs through the NFs and had attended agronomic training at demonstration sites, their yields and gross margins increased—at a higher rate than the men’s. Women also tended to repay NFs in a timely manner. As a result, the share of women outgrower farmers increased from 26 percent in 2010 to 39 percent in 2013. Cases of increased household income empowered women to feed their families, take care of their children, and invest in their own livelihoods. They have also led to decreased conflict between spouses. (A full impact assessment is available here)DIGITAL CAMERA

ACDI/VOCA faces similar challenges in many of our market-oriented programs. In Ethiopia, we are implementing a leadership and networking mentorship program to give women the skills they need to compete effectively in their sectors. In Tanzania and Zambia, our projects are forming and strengthening Savings and Internal Lending Communities with the goal of graduating female members into more formal credit systems traditionally populated by men.

Going forward, it would be helpful to understand how much these types of activities level the playing field between men and women and to clarify how we define success. At what point do we say women no longer need this additional support?

ADVANCE II kicked off in February 2014 and is designed to build on the successes of its predecessor. The first project did a good job of including women in the outgrower farmer model. In the second round, we would like to see more women in leadership positions at different levels of the value chain, such as leaders of producer and marketing groups, associations, business managers, and so on. The plan is to continue to mainstream gender equity across all program components, while also designating specific activities and resources toward lessening the inequality between women and men.

Michelle Stern is the Technical Director for Technical Learning and Standards at  ACDI/VOCA's West Africa office.

Come to SEEP 2014 to learn more about women’s economic empowerment and successful strategies in inclusive market development.


John Chettleborough says:
Jul 07, 2014

Hi Michelle

Thanks for the case study. Getting women into leadership positions could also help address some of the underlying gender issues that have caused the problems in the first place so a nice virtuous circle!

Talking of which……

Another constraint on women’s engagement in markets often is the unequal distribution of domestic and care work – something which might impede participation even if skills are provided (or that may lad to unintended negative consequences such as children being taken out of school to do care work whilst the mother works etc).

So I wonder how the programme has engaged with this issue?

It is something we are beginning to work on and I am keen to learn about strategies that have been successful in shifting attitudes on this issue.

John Chettleborough says:
Jul 07, 2014

Hi Michelle,

As you go forward it would be interesting to see if getting women into leadership positions contributes to changing gender stereotypes and roles more generally. On that subject, another constraint on women’s participation in agricultural and economic activity is the burden of care and domestic work they are expected to fulfill. A further implication of this is that when it is not addressed via redistribution of labour there can be negative impacts from women engaging in markets (e.g. excessive work, children being taken out of school to do care work etc).

It would be interesting to hear if the programme has engaged on this issue and if it has had any implications on who has been able to participate?

Michelle Stern says:
Jul 07, 2014

Hi John-thanks for the comment. You are right that we need to be careful of overburdening women. We do our best to monitor the impact of our interventions to make sure that our support is not making them worse off or putting them at risk. We also target messages on the economic and social benefits of gender equity at both men and women. In some instances we are seeing men and women starting to work together as partners and sharing tasks, resulting in more equitable workloads. We’ve observed that other families see how this can benefit the entire household, and so they are willing to adopt similar behavior. We are all learning from each other, so please share what works as you move forward!

Getaneh Gobezie says:
Jul 07, 2014

Thank you colleagues. … I would be happy to know details about your studies in Africa (e.g Ethiopia).

Dear Michelle Stern, happy to learn that your project is helping BOTH husband and wife to understand that working together, in a context where gender equality is ensured, is beneficial for BOTH of them. This is often challenging, particularly from men’s side.

I am providing the link to a study by Oxfam-Novib in Uganda, highlighting on the positive impact of an intervention which managed to achieve promotion of gender equality for the benefit of BOTH men & women, as well as for the entire household members:


Thanks and Regards

Getaneh (getanehg2002@yahoo.com)

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