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“Gender sensitive participatory approaches to building Producer Organziations”
FAO’s Participation Website E-Newsletter
No. 21, December 2011
Introduction to the newsletter
by Clarissa Ruggieri and Bernd Seiffert
Main findings of the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook (2009) and other recent publications confirm that women continue to face inequality in the agriculture sector and expose the dire need to address gender gaps while mainstreaming a gender perspective in any planned action aimed at promoting sustainable development. Closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agriculture sector and for society. If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent (FAO, 2011).
Women lag far behind men in access to land, credit and decent jobs and their economic opportunities and empowerment remain severely constrained (UNWomen, 2011). They lack voice and decision-making ability in the household and in society; and, their economic opportunities remain very constrained. Gender inequalities are substantially reflected in workers’ and producers’ representation, especially in organized labour institutions, such as trade unions and traditional forms of collective action, where women and their interests are largely underrepresented (FAO-ILO, 2011).
Producers Organizations (POs) have proven to play a vital role in most efforts to improve the peoples standards of living. Membership in cooperatives, producers' organizations, trade unions and other organizations represents one of the proven ways for rural men and women, especially smallholders and poor farmers, to gain access to resources, opportunities and decision-making. Participation in such organizations can be especially important to smallholders and poor farmers, both men and women. (FAO, 2003). However, women need to be represented at managerial levels and included in decision-making processes from the outset (UNDP, 2011). Women are typically under-represented in cooperatives, producer associations, rural workers’ organizations and service organizations, both in terms of general membership and participation in decision-making bodies. Women also have limited representation and participation in institutions such as labor councils (Hill, 2011).
Expanding women’s engagement in economic activities has a positive effect on their status in households and society, and influences their ability to participate in decision-making. Recent studies also show that building self-esteem and self-worth among poor women and their organizational skills is perceived by them as the most important result of participation in groups and may be as or more important than the economic benefits of group action (Gender in Agriculture Soucebook, 2009). A proactive focus on women’s participation, networking and capacity building underpins women’s empowerment and is critical for the achievement of the MDGs (UNWomen, 2011).
On the occasion of the Special Session of the third global meeting of The Farmers’ Forum on Promoting Women’s Leadership in Farmers’ and Rural Producers’ Organizations, held on 12 and 13 February 2010 at IFAD (Rome), participants, including 35 women farmer representatives, discussed ways to increase the economic returns of farming for women, improve training and information transfer for women farmers, and support women’s leadership in rural producer associations.
In September 2011, UN Women sponsored an expert group meeting, “Enabling rural women’s economic empowerment: institutions, opportunities and participation,” in Accra, Ghana. The meeting explored a wide range of strategies that can enhance the economic empowerment of rural women including, among the others, the availability of effective institutions and an enabling policy environment that promotes gender responsive rural development.
Also, the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) 2012 aims at highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.
This newsletter aims at contributing to the general debate by focusing on the impact of gender sensitive approaches in Producers’ Organizations. The articles included provide concrete examples of successful implementation of gender sensitive approaches in producers’ organization, including cooperatives, self-help groups, farmer’s associations, trade unions and other types of groups that involve agriculture-driven joint activities aimed at producing goods and services. They also highlight the obstacles to be removed and the main concerns affecting the promotion of gender equitable approaches to producer’s organizations management and value chains development.
Coby Meyboom, Ira Stam and Géke Appeldoorn highlight the success factors and current challenges dealing with the creation of the women’s wing of the Federation of Farmers Organizations of Andhra Pradesh (FFA-AP) in India.
Iris Munguia from the Latin American Coordination of Banana and Agroindustrial Unions (COLSIBA), provides a testimony of the successful process that led to the establishment of an advocacy platform of women working in the banana sector. The Platform is aimed at designing negotiation mechanisms that include women’s interests and needs. It also aims at strengthening women’s representation through capacity building initiatives and networking.
A detailed description of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) organizational model for the empowerment of small-scale Indian women farmer is provided by Denis Herbel from FAO and Reema Nanavaty from SEWA. The model combines a set of activities to simultaneously increase farmers’ economic, human and social capital and enable them to overcome poverty and exclusion through the establishment t of Self-Help Groups.
From the Value Chain perspective, an interesting contribution signed by Thies Reemer and Linda Mayoux from Oxfam Novib, Janet Biira (KFP) and Paineto Baluku (Bukonzo Joint Cooperative Micro Finance), discusses the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) community-led empowerment methodology, highlighting the constraints affecting women’s participation in the agricultural Value Chains in general, and women’s participation in cooperatives in particular.
Some promising practices on how cooperatives work for working women in Africa are provided by CoopAfrica, ILO. Also, some promising practices to further enhance women’s participation in the cooperative movement are highlighted.
Finally, a recent initiative aimed at promoting gender equity in Rural Producers’ Organizations (RPOs) is featured in the article prepared by Mauro Bottaro from FAO. Constraints and enablers of women’s participation in RPOs are highlighted, together with some lessons learned on how to establish multi-stakeholder dialogues with policy makers and other relevant actors, of improving gender equality in leadership and decision-making processes.
Working Group on
Participatory Approaches & Methods
...to support Sustainable Livelihoods
& Food Security