The gender agenda, a vortex of misunderstandings?

Oftentimes the talks about gender feel like a good old fight: Each of the sides seems so deeply blinded by their own hurt and sure of their righteousness, that none of them wishes to hear out the other side of the story.

Lost in quarrels and power struggles, some diverge paths. Others manage to find common ground and move forward together. Those who manage to do that are stronger than before because reconciling different views under the same vision is a leverage, it enables a more robust strategy and action. In this respect, if we are to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, failing to understand the needs and fulfil the aspirations of about the half of the world’s populations seems rather reckless.

Ultimately, the ability to understand each other and to accept that the other party can have a different way of looking at things, just because of the way they are, determines success of a union, be it a marriage or a business partnership or any other organization of people.

So, is it really about gender? Or is it about accepting and understanding another human being?

During the side event “Feminism, Forests and Food Security” at the 44th session of the Committee on World Food security, Linda Andersson (Vi-Agroforestry) presented the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP), which is a well-known success story of improving farmers’ livelihoods through sustainable agriculture and agroforestry with a carbon credit add-on.

In Kenya, like in many African countries, very few women own land. Vi-Agroforestry came up with the way around it: Anyone can participate in the project as long they have access to family land. From there on, the rate of women participation went up to 60%. Women could decide how to use the land and started to get payments for carbon credits.

Naturally, the next question I asked was: So, how did Vi-Agroforestry manage to get the families to agree that women could be in charge of the project implementation as well as get the money for the credits? Vi-Agroforestry approached this through a household road map tool, which is a collection of gender analysis tools designed to work with decision-making on a household level.

One exercise from this toolbox is a “24-hour clock”, during which men and women list what they do and what they want to do during the day. They are then asked about the vision of the family and if they want the same things and who makes the decisions about what. Based on the conversation about the vision, the new list of who is doing what is designed. Starting such a discussion on a family level helps to find a better way of working together, where each part can contribute, according to what they have decided in harmony with each other.

If you think of it, such an approach can be used in any country and in any family. It can also be employed on a higher level of decision making as a starting point for designing inclusive policies that ensure representation of the entire society. A representation that answers the needs and the interests of all, and not only by the numbers on paper.  

We formulate and express reality by assigning names to notions. And we need the gender label to determine and design actions that would ensure women’s point of view is heard, understood and acted upon. It might seem like a shield for the “weaker sex”, but the truth is, women are not weaker or stronger, women are just different by nature. For me, that’s what essentially the gender label is for: It is not a woman’s yelp for more power, it is a fair claim for human rights. 

Maybe, at times, just like any other struggle for justice, the gender agenda might sound like a belligerent cry. But let’s face it, achieving gender equity is about humanity’s co-existence in concord, it’s a pre-condition for sustainable development.

Blogpost by Ekaterina Bessonova, #CFS44 Social Reporter – ekaterina.bessonova(at)sei-international.org

Photo Credit: Gwenael Piaser via Flick

This post is part of the live coverage during the 44rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

10/10/2017 0:00

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