Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

5. Review of policies related to gender-responsive technology

The Royal Thai Government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985.[5] Under this convention, ministries required to eliminate discriminatory laws and practices, and to incorporate gender equity and equal opportunities for women into their policies, strategies and actions. The SPPD research included a desk review of the gender responsiveness of the policies of key ministries that are engaged in rural development, education and technology transfer. This review sought to examine how existing policies and programmes affect the capacity of rural women to improve their income and livelihoods, and support reduction of the drudgery of their work through technology transfer, information dissemination and appropriate technologies.

5.1 National policy framework for poverty reduction and growth

The Ninth National Economic and Social Development Plan sets out Thailand’s development priorities for 2002-2006. Rooted in a ‘people-centred’ approach to development, it pursues the move from a central and compartmentalized planning approach to a more decentralized and holistic one that was initiated in the Eighth Plan (1997-2001), and emphasises the need for collaborative efforts and participation among all stakeholders, including women.

The Policy Statement of the Government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (delivered to Parliament on Monday, 26 February 2001) identified priorities for different parts of the Government and sets out a holistic framework for action to reduce poverty and generate more employment. Recognizing that people at all levels have faced economic difficulties because of unemployment, falling prices of agricultural produce and the decline in purchasing power, the statement identified a set of nine “urgent” policies. These include three-year debt suspension for small farmers, the establishment of a one-million-baht revolving fund for each village for community development, the setting up of a people’s bank, the introduction of universal health insurance, and the promotion of public participation in preventing and suppressing corruption[6].

The policy to establish the village fund and people’s bank is part of the Government’s investment to create capital access for nurturing new opportunities as sources to generate income for the people. Poor rural women - who in the past have relied on local moneylenders - should benefit from the people’s bank. They should also benefit from the village fund, which will support the One Tambon One Product Project that already helps rural women through its focus on processing and production of local products. Women labourers stand to benefit from the labour policy, which stipulates adequate social policy measures to protect children and women. The energy policy’s plan to promote the efficient procurement and use of alternative energy sources should reduce the amount of time that women spend on firewood collection.

A significant weakness of the urgent policies, however, is their overall lack of visible attention to gender concerns and the absence of gender specific targeting. Given their focus on “farmers” - traditionally perceived as male - these policies run the risk of ignoring the roles and specific needs of women, who in most cases are among the poorest groups in the rural communities. Similarly, policies to encourage the involvement of local people in local government processes fail to consider that cultural beliefs have historically excluded women from most household and community decision-making processes.

The Prime Minister’s Policy Statement emphasises the importance of science and technology to develop the production and service sectors of the economy, promote agricultural income generation, and transform the country into a knowledge-based society. However, the intended role of IT fails to take into account the overall unfamiliarity with IT in rural areas. Most government officials and people in rural areas - especially women - lack the capacity to access and use IT-based information and knowledge systems.

A key part of the education policy reforms aim to provide the Thai public with equal access to life-long education and training, enabling them to acquire knowledge and capital to generate income and help pull the country out of the economic and social crisis. The reforms target the disabled, the handicapped and the under-privileged for basic and compulsory education. However, the lack of attention to gender is striking since rural women account a significant share of the population without education.

Within the broad scope of macro policies that address economic and social advancement opportunities, Thailand may be creating an enabling environment for rural women, but the assumption that gender blind policies automatically will improve gender equal opportunities may not always hold true. The public administration policy aims to enhancing social justice and national development through political reform, public administration reform, legal reform, decentralization and the anti-corruption measures. While it seeks to accelerate the reform of outdated laws, rules and regulations in line with the country’s present economic and social conditions, it does not specifically mention women’s rights or gender equality.

The social policy specifically targets the family, children, youth, women and the elderly. It promotes the rights, status and role of women and aims to enhance the capacity of women to participate fully in development in the economic, social or political sphere at the community and national level. It also seeks to enhance women’s access to a range of services through the establishment of community family development centres (family health and planning services), day care centres for pre-school children, and community-based libraries and learning centres.

The public administration policy aims to enhance social justice and national development through political reform, public administration reform, legal reform, decentralization and the anti-corruption measures. While it seeks to accelerate the reform of outdated laws, rules and regulations in line with the country’s present economic and social conditions, it does not specifically mention women’s rights or gender equality.

5.2 Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives

The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) is responsible for food security in Thailand. It seeks to strengthen the capacity of farming and other local communities to manage themselves and their local environment through sustainable agriculture. At the time when study was undertaken MOAC comprised of 13 departments and offices, which cover agricultural affairs, agricultural economics, agricultural land reform, irrigation, fisheries, livestock, forestry, land development, and cooperatives, and seven state enterprises.[7]

MOAC works in collaboration with other government institutions (such as the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research, the Ministry of Interior and various universities), and NGOs (such as the Community Development Organization and the Agriculture for Health Foundation). MOAC’s programmes target Thai farmers, who in theory include both men and women. Given the recognized role of women in processing, MOAC programmes in post-harvesting and community enterprise development (such as the One Tambon One Product Project) also target rural women. However, the SPPD research found that MOAC personnel tend to direct most of their services and support - especially in agricultural production - towards male farmers, with the assumption that it will reach other members of the household and community. Yet often information and technology are not shared, and women are excluded from the MOAC’s technical information and knowledge, and technology transfer processes in the agriculture sector.

5.2.1 Department of Agriculture Extension

The Department of Agricultural Extension (DOAE) trains farmers in modern agricultural techniques through sub-district Agriculture TTCs. The DOAE has prepared a draft two-page policy document that targets women farmers as a separate group and seeks to promote the development of agricultural housewives groups. If implemented effectively, this policy has the potential to empower women farmers by enhancing their access to knowledge and services in agricultural production, management, marketing and credit. However, by simultaneously continuing to focus on agricultural households’ home economics needs (farm home management, processing, home improvements, and food and nutrition); the DOAE is reinforcing traditional gender roles, which perpetuate traditional power relationships and inequalities between women and men.

5.2.2 Department of Livestock Development

The Department of Livestock Development (DOLD) seeks to strengthen the income-generating capacity of livestock farmers and groups. In this context, it provides opportunities for members of livestock groups to access modern technology and participate in needs-based development planning through Agricultural TTCs and demonstration farms. The DOLD also has programmes to promote livestock farming (including chickens, ducks, fish and frogs) in schools.

The desk review found that the DOLD generally tends to work with livestock groups that raise large animals - especially beef and dairy cattle - whose members are almost always male (even though women are also involved in feeding, watering and cleaning pens of large livestock). In addition, the research revealed that all the DOLD officials in the study sites were male, and generally reluctant to serve women farmers, who play the major role in small livestock. With the exception of the schools programme, the DOLD tends to ignore small livestock (such as chickens), which make an important contribution to household food security and have significant income generating potential. As a result, direct technology transfer tends to ignore women, and opportunities to develop successful chicken enterprises are overlooked.

5.2.3 Department of Fisheries

Several of the policies of the Department of Fisheries (DOF) are relevant to rural people including those to develop fishery organizations and aquaculture, and enhance fishery resources and environmental management. However, the DOF directs most attention towards large-scale fisheries and post-harvesting for export, and largely ignores the potential of fishing and aquaculture to alleviate rural poverty. In addition, DOF fails to target women in spite of their important role in freshwater aquaculture. Most DOF personnel in the provinces are male, which hinders information dissemination and technology transfer to women fisher folk.

5.3 Financial institutions and policies

The Bank for Agriculture and Cooperatives (BAAC) is implementing a number of projects targeted at rural people, some of which promote gender mainstreaming and support national gender policies. For instance, the Social Support Project offers training in food production and processing techniques, as well as skills to build the capacity of rural men and women to become self-employed and develop small enterprises. This project also works with Bank staff (including senior management) to educate them about the gender dimensions of microfinance and develop approaches and procedures to increase the number of female clients.

Some BAAC projects - like the Microfinance Linkage Project and the Green Bank Schemes - support women indirectly by providing access to formal credit and supporting alternative income generating activities such as small-scale vegetable production. However, other BAAC projects - such as the Land Ownership Fund and the Agricultural Rehabilitation Project - disregard gender in targeting, and may therefore be neither accessible nor responsive to the needs of rural women.

The Government’s Social Investment Fund (SIF) promotes social capital formation to help those affected by the recent social and economic crisis. The fund’s innovative “Menu 5” window enables Community Organization Networks made up entirely of volunteers to distribute social fund financing directly to needy groups organized around shared interests (such as geographical location or economic/social issues) in the form of social assistance and cash transfers.[8] Impact assessments have shown that the fund has achieved a good impact in benefiting the poor and unemployed in rural areas. However, it is difficult to say how much poor and unemployed women have benefited as part of this group.

5.4 Ministry of Education

The Ministry of Education (MOE) is responsible for formal and non-formal education and training in Thailand. The Department of Non-formal Education (DFNE) has achieved an important impact in increasing literacy in Thailand by mainstreaming non-formal adult education programmes in socio-economic development at the grassroots level. DFNE provides non-formal education through regional research and development centres, provincial and district non-formal education centres, and sub-district learning centres. The desk review found that the DFNE has targeted rural women as a sub-group of the under-privileged and out-of-school populations, and that the training provided is relevant to some of their daily needs (such as food processing).

Although in theory gender neutral, vocational education and training - the responsibility of the Department of Vocational Education (DOVE) - has tended to maintain traditional gender stereotypes, targeting women for art and home economics training, and men for engineering courses.

5.5 Ministry of Interior

The Community Development Department in the Ministry of Interior (MOI) has eight policies including those to improve the quality and use of household and community data, establish and develop women’s organizations, promote income generation, strengthen the family as an institution, and promote women’s political participation. Several of these seek to support women and their organizations. For instance the income generation policy aims to improve women’s finance and business skills to enable them to take advantage of income generating opportunities. The establishment of Family Development Centres, managed by local women, are intended to help prevent and solve community problems such as drugs, women and children trading and child labour. However, the performance of the policy to improve data collection and use is debatable. With the exception of village population data, household and community data are not disaggregated by sex. In addition, it is unclear to what extent data are available to and used by other parts of the Ministry of Interior to support planning and policy-making.

5.6 Ministry of Public Health

The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) has developed a National Health Development Plan (2002-2006) to guide implementation of health policy throughout the country. Part of the MOPH’s strategy is to support the development of knowledge and technology in support of health through the integration of social science information. One of the expected outputs is a user-friendly health database and multidisciplinary health technology that provides a framework to promote good health. Such an integrated system will provide a platform for information exchange and dialogue that could help to resolve some important social issues in the public health sphere such as reproductive health rights. However, the personnel policies of the MOPH have not succeeded in ensuring a fair balance among male and female employees. Recruitment and appointments at all levels (medical doctors, nurses and public health research scientists) continue to reflect gender stereotypes.

5.7 Department of Public Welfare, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare

The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has nine policies aimed specifically at women, including policies to promote women’s status, role and potential, to strengthen women’s groups in marketing, to promote gender equality, to improve skills training for female workers, and to increase gender awareness among the Department’s staff. For instance, the DPW’s community vocational training project has the potential to reduce the constraints women face in attending training outside their village and increase women’s access to information, education and technology transfer. Similarly, policies to promote equality in skills development by providing women with equal opportunities to enrol in the Labour Skills Development Institutes and Centres throughout the country are important to increase the share of female students in studies (such as agriculture, fisheries, trade and industry) that have traditionally been associated with men. However, programmes developed under some other policies appear misguided. For instance, activities that provide occupational training and subsequently encourage women to accept contract work directly from factories keep women in the informal sector, where labour rights and access to benefits are limited.

5.8 Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research

The Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR) is a state enterprise under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, which is responsible for formulating national policy on science, technology and the environment. TISTR initiates and conducts research and development to help achieve the goals of the country’s development plan. In accordance with the Government’s focus on people-centred development, it uses a participatory approach to identify needs-based and appropriate technology. Under the One Tambon One Product Project, the TISTR indirectly supports rural women to generate additional income through the provision of training, information and technology transfer. The TISTR supports rural women through the development of energy-saving organic fertilizers and biogas, and the transfer of agricultural technologies for mushroom cultivation under the Royal Highland Project. Planned research and development on fragrant oils, fruit and food processing is also likely to benefit rural women. However, the TISTR fails to target rural women systematically throughout its research and development process, and in most cases, women are not adequately represented in technology education and transfer workshops organized by the institute.

5.9 Key findings of the policy review

[7] Since the study was completed in 2002, there had been extensive restructuring of the Ministries in Royal Thai Government.

Previous Page Top of Page Next Page