The SPPD research examined the role of different types of institutions in providing rural women with access to resources, technology and other support. A stakeholder inventory was conducted as part of the PRA exercise to identify the types of institutions involved in the transfer of information, technology and other inputs, and an institutional directory (in Thai and English) was produced. It found that some organizations - including the Agricultural Office, the Community Development Office, Public Health Stations, Non-formal Education Stations and, increasingly, Tambon Administrative Organizations (TAOs) - play a major role in technology identification and transfer, and that NGOs play a relatively less important role in this aspect.
The research also found that local organizations - formed by people within the community to respond to a particular need or opportunity - play an important role in facilitating linkages between the community and external institutions, disseminating information and allocating available resources to villagers. Certain types of local organizations (such as savings groups, cremation groups and housewives groups) were found in each of the villages studied. Informal savings and loan groups were found to be an important source of support for poorer households, which lack the collateral required by commercial banks. Indeed, in many cases, these informal groups are the few main safety nets available to poor households in times of stress. The study also found that the most successful and sustainable local organizations were those that had a strong leader, active participation from a minimum number of villagers, clear goals, the capacity to adapt in response to changing local needs, and external support.
Most successful and sustainable local organizations were those that had a strong leader, active participation from a minimum number of villagers, clear goals, the capacity to adapt in response to changing local needs, and external support.
The PRA found that women tend to belong to local organizations that are focused on home economics and household tasks (such as housewives groups, savings groups and public health volunteers). Men are more likely to be members of local organizations that seek to improve agricultural productivity and generate income (such as agriculture groups, livestock groups and fisheries group).
Wealth differences also characterize membership of local organizations. A minimum level of assets - in the form of land, livestock or human capital - is normally required as a precondition for participation in local organizations. Often poorer households and women lack sufficient assets to be eligible for membership. For instance, cattle raising groups usually require members to own a certain number of cattle, while rubber smoking groups require new members to own plantations of a certain size. In other cases, women simply cannot spare the time required to participate in local organizations. For the landless and poor opportunity cost of participation - lost income - is just too high. The findings suggest that community members should possess basic asset endowment and adequate human capital such as time and knowledge to build social capital advantages through externally organized social mobilization process in rural Thailand.
Community members should have basic asset endowment and human capital such as time and knowledge to build social capital advantages through externally organized social mobilization process.
Research found that women have less access than men to decision-making processes in local organizations. The PRA demonstrated that the planning and decision-making processes of local organizations tend to exclude womens participation. Most committee members of village organizations are male and decision-making and voting in these organizations is usually the prerogative of male members. Although all planning and decision-making processes within local organizations are open to women in principle, in practice womens participation tends to be restricted as a result of cultural norms, gender biases and traditional power relationships. In the villages studied, women generally only have opportunities to participate in planning in organizations in which: i) there are no men (such as housewives groups); ii) the activity is associated with womens work (such as village health volunteers); or iii) women account for a majority of members (such as the small livestock group in Nan Province). Because of this unequal participation, local groups fail to consider womens interests and gender-sensitive approaches, women do not participate adequately in determining technology needs, and male villagers have greater access to services. Such gender differentiated participation pattern though may in part fulfil objective of womens participation in development, yet may not contribute to gender equal participation in development or gender mainstreaming for social transformation.
Gender differentiated participation pattern in gender selective local institutions though may in part fulfil objective of womens participation in development, yet may not contribute to gender equal participation in development or gender mainstreaming for social transformation.
The research found that women have less access than men to technology and services provided by external institutions. The Venn diagram exercises carried out in the six villages revealed that women have best access to institutions most closely associated with traditional female activities. By comparison, women lack equal access to other kinds of institutions including those that provide agriculture services, training and formal finance (such as the Bank of Agriculture and Cooperatives). For instance, women account for less than 10 per cent of participants enrolled in training courses offered by the Department for Skills Development.
Inadequate time and family responsibilities prevent most rural women from travelling outside their village to participate in training or technology demonstrations, while their limited knowledge about the kinds of services offered hinders them from accessing available services. In addition, a number of systemic factors seriously obstruct womens access to technology as described below.
Socialisation and gender stereotypes
Gender stereotypes and traditional beliefs about men and womens roles in society define the place of women within the village, irrespective of their contribution to the household and village economy. Research demonstrated that these prevailing social biases affect the selection of candidates targeted for technology transfer and training. Men are normally selected for training related to agricultural topics such as technology support for livestock production, while training on processing or household activities generally targets women. While female participants in agricultural training courses are not the norm, in some of the villages studied women have been included based on their interest and involvement in livestock production. However, in other villages, women are seen as incapable of learning or slow learners.
Village power relations
Local traditions, customs and hierarchies exert a strong influence on governance and power relations at the village level. Traditionally, men have been most involved in politics, and are better informed and socially well connected. Most of the villagers who occupy positions of power or leadership are men from wealthy households. Responsible for identifying local needs, and negotiating and allocating external resources, these men play a leading role in village planning and decision-making. As a result, already powerful households tend to have the first choice of available resources and technologies.
Society has conditioned rural women to believe that mens opinions are more credible and, as a result, they tend to go along with decisions reached by men. This creates opportunities for men to play the leading role in resource allocation planning and decision-making in support of their own needs.
The village headman is normally responsible for recruiting participants for meetings and workshops. Given the lack of time often available for this task, and the desire to meet deadlines so that future support is not compromised, he is most likely to draw on his own kinship networks and contacts, or those of other influential individuals in the village. As a consequence, those who are less powerful, and less vocal or socially poorly linked-mostly rural women in poorer households - tend to be excluded.
The PRA demonstrated that middle and high-income households have greater access to available technology and resources, and that technology transfer activities supported by government organizations and NGOs tend to miss the poor. Poorer households, which usually depend on day labour to generate an income, normally cannot spare the time to participate in village meetings or training, which would represent a loss of earnings. Nor can they afford to take the risk associated with the trial of new technologies.
The scarcity of female government officials, extension agents and trainers hampers womens access to information, resources and technology provided by external institutions. The research found that formal communications from government officials are unconsciously gender-biased. For instance, letters and invitations to meetings are always addressed to the head of the household who is usually male. At the same time, cultural constraints, prevailing power hierarchies and relationships make it difficult for village women to contact male officials. Male officials themselves prefer to contact male villagers.
In addition, while training courses can help to advance the skills of some villagers, there is no formal obligation on the part of those trained to communicate their new knowledge with other villagers. As a result, new skills are not systematically shared, and opportunities to multiply and scale up technology transfer are lost.
 Copies will be provided to
district-level government offices, technology transfer centres and selected
village groups in the study area.|
 As part of the decentralization process, administrative functions at the sub-district (Tambon) level have been strengthened through the formation of Tambon Administrative Organizations (TAOs) that encourage the participation of civic groups in development planning and decision-making.