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Gender Analysis

What is gender analysis?

Gender analysis is part and parcel of social analysis and the study of social diversity. It provides a focused examination of the differences in the asset bases, livelihood strategies and vulnerabilities between women and men, as well as the reasons for and implications of these differences. Gaining a deeper understanding of these differences allows for a better identification of appropriate interventions to ensure social inclusion and equal access to resources and basic services (health, education and economic infrastructure), which are required to enable equitable and sustainable economic growth.

Like social analysis, gender analysis can be applied to any sector, subsector, and type of development intervention or lending instrument, ranging from policy reform to investment projects/plans and technical assistance, in both urban and rural settings. It can be undertaken at various stages in agency project cycles. The gender perspective should permeate all programme activities, including target and indicators, and is the responsibility of everyone involved. 

Why do you need to know about this?

Rural investment projects cannot succeed in reducing hunger sustainably without closing the gap between men and women engaged in agriculture. Women represent a significant share of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, particularly in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. For more facts about gender, please see FAO-Gender Key facts.

However, across all regions, women have less access than men to resources for agricultural production and socio-economic development, such as land, credit, extension or education. Wages for female farm labourers are usually lower than for men, while low-paid tasks in agro processing are routinely assigned to women. In some countries, a husband's family may take land and livestock from a woman upon her husband's death, leaving her destitute. It is therefore important to use the gender lens in analysing social diversity in order to shed light on the reasons for inequality and to identify the barriers that dramatically reduce women’s productivity, livelihoods and ability to farm.

FAO estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could substantially increase yields on their farms. In addition, evidence from Africa, Asia and Latin America consistently shows that families benefit when women have greater status and power within the household. As such, closing the gender gap is in the economic interest of all actors involved in development, governments as well as households. Striving toward gender equality is an integral part of sustainable development. It is achieved through: (a) gender equity (i.e. pursuing fairness and justice); and (b) women’s empowerment (i.e. increasing the opportunities of women to control their lives).

Box 1: Key messages

  • Striving towards gender equality is an integral part of sustainable development, achieved through: (a) gender equity (i.e. pursuing fairness and justice); and (b) women’s empowerment (i.e. increasing the opportunities of women to control their lives). 
  • Gender analysis at programme design stage helps identify women and men’s different priorities, needs, capacities and vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of formulating project interventions based on incorrect assumptions and stereotypes. Identifying gender gaps helps formulate specific activities that address gender inequalities, and promote economic and sociopolitical development for both women and men. 
  • Gender analysis must be conducted in a participatory manner, as the process raises the consciousness of local women and men about different types of gender inequalities, empowering them to take action to reduce those inequalities. 
  • Gender analysis should be mainstreamed into livelihoods analysis (See Social Analysis), as it represents another principal cornerstone of project design. 
  • Gender analysis should lead into concrete activities during implementation with corresponding resource allocations,  and gender-sensitive indicators to monitor progress and assess project impact on both women and men. 

The Figure below illustrates how gender mainstreaming in project design can contribute to sustainable and equitable development impact, through the process of social analysis. The purpose of gender mainstreaming is to provide women and men with equal opportunities to pursue their own livelihoods through gaining equal access to and control over resources, benefits and decision-making, at all stages of the development process. 

Gender analysis in the context of larger national or regional Agricultural and Rural Development (ARD) investment plans can help identify differential impacts of the planned investments on women and men and point out specific opportunities for promoting gender equality in areas where inequalities are most pronounced. To ensure that gender mainstreaming actions are implemented, accountability for gender equity needs to be built into the various components of these plans. 

How is gender analysis conducted?

Gender analysis can be undertaken by sociologists, anthropologists, or gender (social) and livelihood specialists at various stages in the programming cycle1. It is important to incorporate  it in a social analysis study as early as possible in the cycle. The sustainable livelihoods approach (see Social Analysis) can be used as a tool for exploring differences in assets, strategies and livelihood outcomes between women and men and the causes of their vulnerability. Based on this approach, opportunities are identified to reduce gender-specific vulnerabilities and strengthen resilience, and to develop livelihoods and improve outcomes. 

The gender specialist examines gender roles, gender-specific workloads, access to and control of resources and gender roles in decision-making.

Gender roles and division of labour: The roles of men and women in agriculture are clearly defined by long-standing traditional norms and practices. In most societies, women mainly engage in weeding, threshing, vegetable gardening, small livestock production and informal marketing, while men play a major role in land clearance, fencing and transportation of produce to the market (loading and unloading). The absence of adult males in a female-headed household often leads to poverty caused by a reliance on scarce family labour and the need to pay for hired labour.

Workloads: In addition to their farm activities, women are responsible for providing child care, preparing food (including fetching water and fuelwood) and managing the household economy. Women are also involved in community-based support functions. For example, in countries with high HIV/AIDS prevalence, providing home-based care for orphans and vulnerable children (and HIV/AIDS-affected people) has had a great impact on women’s ability to participate in crop production, for example less time for weeding, which in turn reduces yields.

Access to and control of resources: In many developing countries, most women in rural areas have limited access to land and water resources, and lack financial resources to buy inputs and technologies. They tend to own smaller plots than men which is often due to cultural inheritance practices that favour boys over girls as well as limited access to sufficient farm power to cultivate large plots. Traditionally they have been disadvantaged in accessing agricultural information (including market information and markets) disseminated through extension services and training, while lack of collateral and education often limits their access to formal credit. Many resource-poor men face the same challenges as women.

Gender roles in decision-making: In many parts of the world, women have less bargaining power within the household, community, and national levels. This is often linked to the fact that women continue to be deprived of property rights while their male partners, as heads of households, are making major decisions regarding household resource use. Although some legislation on inheritance and property rights are in many contexts gradually being amended as a result of systematic efforts to remove discrimination against women , much needs to be done to promote joint decision-making regarding the use of household income. Women participating in producer organisations or community development groups, often tend to defer to men for the final decisions unless there are special efforts made to promote women’s leadership and involvement in decision-making. Less literate women depend more on their husbands for decisions.

The gender specialist uses the sustainable livelihoods approach as the conceptual framework for understanding the dynamics of social diversity and gender in the context of agriculture and rural development. He/she then uses the results of this study to suggest ways to build on the gender-specific strengths, coping strategies and livelihoods (see example below) and to address existing inequalities.

What are the outputs of gender analysis?

Results from gender analysis contribute to the strategic direction of project design and implementation, by making ARD investments more gender-equitable. The gender specialist is responsible for producing specific outputs that will be used by the design team, including: a detailed description of gender inequalities; a gender mainstreaming strategy with suggestions for how to address these inequalities; and a set of specific targeting measures that form part of this strategy. These outputs complement the Social Analysis with a more detailed description of gender inequalities and suggestions for how to address them through a gender mainstreaming strategy, including specific targeting measures.

How gender analysis can direct programme formulation towards more gender-equitable development
An investment programme was designed for a poor region in an East African country. Its two main components were: (a) development of irrigation, mainly through rehabilitation of canals; and (b) increase in productivity through farmer training and demonstrations of new technologies to raise the productivity of crops, livestock, and fish. The programme identified three predominant groups of water users: gardeners, livestock farmers and fishermen. A thorough gender analysis of these population groups was carried out at programme formulation phase, examining division of labour, time use, health, land tenure systems, education and participation in water users associations (WUAs). The analysis revealed findings that forced the design team to add a third component to the programme: construction of rural infrastructure specifically to reduce women’s labour burden, including measures to mitigate possible health risks and negative environmental impacts. To respond to the issues – highlighted by the analysis – of women’s limited access to land, low female participation in WUAs and exclusion of indigenous women due to poor literacy skills, the programme introduced two innovative measures: (a) a quota was established for allocation of irrigated land to women, so they could have access to water from the irrigation projects during the dry season and be involved in the decision-making process; and (b) membership in WUAs was not limited to farmers with irrigated land, or to one member per household. A special transitional measure was added to promote women’s participation by charging slightly lower fees to female members of WUAs and accepting illiterate women in community credit management committees. The main programme activities that helped to achieve these gender mainstreaming objectives were the recruitment of a gender officer in the programme management unit and the organization of farmer training demonstrations (FTDs). During implementation, an additional need arose to provide numeracy and literacy training in indigenous languages to a considerable number of beneficiaries (most of them women) so as to open the doors for them to benefit from the programme. Functional literacy groups (FLGs) were set up to provide this support as well as to enhance solidarity among groups for other purposes, such as collective work and microfinance.

How gender analysis can contribute to readjusting a project during implementation
An ARD investment project in a country in Asia provided credit to poor households for the purchase of milk buffalo. A few years into implementation two new dairy cooperatives were formed to help farmers market their milk. The project brought considerable financial benefits to at least a third of the households in the village, bridged ethnic and caste differences in democratically-run dairy cooperatives and had positive effects on crop production as well, because more manure was available. However, a quick gender analysis during a supervision mission revealed that the project had some negative effects on poor women, whose labour in collecting fodder and caring for the milk buffalo had increased dramatically without appropriate compensation, because husbands controlled the income from milk sales. As a result of the growing livestock population, the women’s access to community land and state forests for gathering fodder and fuelwood had also decreased. Based on these findings, adjustments were made during implementation to include provisions to assist women in purchasing their own buffalos and to include them as members of the dairy cooperatives as well as in community actions to manage and improve fodder resources in state forests.

Footnotes

Link to Social Analysis Note for sample TORs for Sociologist (Institutions, Gender and Targeting Specialist)

Key Resources

Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook (FAO, World Bank, IFAD, 2008)

Presents a wealth of information, case studies, best practices and resources on the application of gender approaches in agricultural development, organized into sector-specific modules for ease of reference. Has very good section on M&E.

Gender in Climate-Smart Agriculture Module 18 for the Gender in Agriculture Sourcebook (FAO, World Bank, IFAD, 2015)

Provides guidance and a comprehensive menu of practical tools for integrating gender in planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of projects and investments in climate-smart agriculture.

Governing land for women and men (FAO, 2013) 

Assists implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security by providing guidance that supports the Guidelines' principle of gender equality in tenure governance.

Gender dimensions of agricultural and rural employment: Differentiated pathways out of poverty (FAO, IFAD, ILO, 2010)

Reflects the latest thinking on the gender dimensions of rural poverty. The cornerstone of its analysis I the United Nation's Decent Work Agenda, which calls for creating better jobs for both women, men, obtaining social protection for all rural workers, ensuring that labour standards apply to all rural workers and promoting rural institutions that equally represent women's and men's interests.

E-learning course on "Governing land for women and men" (FAO, 2015)

Help to gain a clear understanding of why it is important to take into account gender and social issues when dealing with land tenure, and what actions must be adopted so that women and men from different social groups can equally participate in and benefit from land tenure governance processes.

E-learning course on "Gender in Food and Nutrition Security" (FAO, 2014)

Provides guidance on how to design and implement agriculture policies and programmes that are gender-responsive, sustainable, contributing to gender equality, and therefore able to improve food and nutrition security.

E-learning course on "Social Analysis for agriculture and rural investment projects" (FAO, 2013)

Describes how to use Social Analysis (SA) in the project cycle, the sustainable livelihoods framework, the main entry points for conducting SA, and how to integrate the findings into the projects design.