For many women, the biggest barrier they face is the societal belief of what women should be, and how they should be allowed to behave. That’s the underlying cause of a lot of barriers for rural women. CARE Ethiopia, and especially the GRAD project (funded through USAID’s Feed the Future), use Social Analysis and Action, a technique for engaging men and strengthening women’s wellbeing in the community. SAA creates community dialogue on social norms, and provides safe spaces for men and women to discuss challenges and come up with solutions. Following an Outcome Mapping evaluation process, the communities highlighted their results:
“Now we do not argue with our husbands like before. We discuss issues, especially about our resources like how to sell our land or cattle.”
- 40-year-old mother from Hawassa Zuria
According to the review process, women’s economic engagement appears to have been a stepping stone towards a number of other changes in gender relations, including women’s greater involvement in household livelihood decisions. Women’s participation in VESAs—often alongside their husbands—was an important catalyst for these changes.
The subtle signs of more equitable relationships—such as men and women eating together or calling each other by name—are rewarding and can be self-reinforcing, leading to ever greater communication, understanding, and trust in the relationship. For programs that aim to shift gender dynamics, it may be that putting more energy and focus on relationship behaviors such as these (rather than, say, insisting that men begin to take on previously taboo tasks) could lead to a more profound process of renegotiation of power dynamics in the household.
More information is available in the learning brief or the full evaluation.
Inspired by FAO's estimate that if women got the same access to resources as men, there would be 160 million fewer hungry people in the world, CARE designed the Pathways program in 6 countries for women farmers. We have recently completed a cost benefit analysis of expanding extension services to women farmers, combined with gender dialogues and marketing techniques. The results were remarkable, and remind us that expanding extension services can have big impacts on gender.
What did we see?
* For every $1 invested in the program, communities saw a $31 return in benefit (split among women's empowerment gains, food security, and livelihood gains.
* Improved women’s access to extension services: Women’s access to extension more than tripled in every country Pathways worked in. Farmers’ Field and Business Schools were a particularly important way that we opened up access to information and extension for farmers.
* Women are more empowered: The number of women who meet CARE’s definition of empowered on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index more than doubled in Ghana and Tanzania, and women’s empowerment scores increased an average of 14 points for Mali and Tanzania, and 6 points for India, Ghana, and Malawi.
* Women can make more decisions: women’s ability to influence household decisions about assets went up by about 25 percentage points—with the highest impact in Mali—a 37 percentage point change.
* Better access to inputs: In India, Ghana, and Tanzania, seed replicators and agri-kiosks have lowered costs and barriers of high-quality inputs for farmers. In every country, access to inputs went up by at least 10%, and in India and Tanzania it more than doubled.
Women often sited that being the person who got agricultural knowledge from an extension agent changed their standing in the household and the community. Having that respect, and the authority of being the person who had new information, mattered to them. Becoming better farmers, and the increased income that resulted, also gave them power and respect in the communities. Extension services won't do this alone, but they are a critical component of building women's empowerment as farmers.