Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Ms. Clare Bishop

Organization: FAO Gender Consultant with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division
Country: United Kingdom

Currently working as an independent consultant with ongoing assignments with EU, FAO and OECD as gender specialist supporting project design, policy dialogue and action research. Previously employed as: lead technical specialist on gender and social inclusion with IFAD; senior officer on HIV/AIDS and food security with FAO; senior lecturer in the Department of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda; and lecturer at Cranfield University (Silsoe Campus).

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    • Ms. Clare Bishop

      FAO Gender Consultant with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division
      United Kingdom

      Dear contributors and followers,

      Thank you all for your contributions during the last three weeks which have resulted in a rich discussion.

      There have been 66 individual contributors, representing over 30 countries and a mixture of organisations, multilateral and bilateral agencies, NGOs, research institutes, colleges and universities. It has been encouraging to see so many men actively engaged in the discussion – accounting for 25% of the total contributors – because this is the path to gender transformative impacts. A detailed review of the proceedings will be prepared over the coming weeks. The principal findings will be discussed at an Expert Group Meeting which will be held in Rome in September, as part of the preparatory activities for the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018.

      Consequently, in this short piece, I have decided to focus on the inter-play between new opportunities and the constraints imposed by social norms. One such example is male outmigration. The movement of men away from rural areas in search of employment, and many rural women becoming the primary farmer, could be seen as an opportunity to create space for women to become more involved in economic activities and redefine their role in the agriculture sector. This may take place in the short-term, as women step in to fill the gap left by their male counterparts – partly out of necessity but partly taking advantage of the opportunity. They get involved in new areas of business, engage with the market and broaden their networks and horizons. But in the longer term, their dreams and professional aspirations risk to be reined in by persistent social norms. Their new behaviour may be considered to be unacceptable, colliding with the idea that a women’s place should be in the home, that they should not be making independent decisions, etc.

      A major thread throughout this discussion has been the recognition of the need to address the root causes of gender inequalities in order to achieve sustainable development. Behaviour change, based on a full understanding of the meaning of gender equality - of a just and equal world for all - is crucial. It has been exciting to read of so many different approaches being used to stimulate gender transformative change at the individual, household and community levels. These will be explored in more detail in the follow-up actions.

      Once again, thank you for your contributions. There is still time to post contributions or to send them to [email protected] by Friday 11 August; after that date, the discussion will be closed.

      We look forward to sharing the synthesis report with you in due course.

      Clare Bishop

    • Ms. Clare Bishop

      FAO Gender Consultant with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division
      United Kingdom

      Feedback from the facilitator of the online discussion

      Thank you to all new and returning contributors for your inputs to the online discussion during the last week.

      A summary of the contributions by topics addressed shows that we have already covered a lot of aspects of question 1 (in terms of the context, needs and priorities of rural women), question 2 (the policy framework and skills development), and question 3 (ways for addressing deeply rooted gender norms and engaging with men).

      Have the interests and priorities of rural women in your country of region been adequately reflected in the discussion?
      The contributions during the last two weeks have shared insights from around the world on different aspects of the empowerment of rural women. The greatest number of contributions have come from Asia. If you feel the discussion is missing a perspective from your part of the world, please feel free to contribute.

      Are there more examples of the private sector creating space to empower rural women?
      The topic which has received less attention overall – although there have been some very valuable contributions – is around engaging with the private sector and women’s entrepreneurship. How can women be facilitated to fully engage with private sector opportunities?

      Men – are we hearing your voice?
      Men have been active in this debate, accounting for one quarter of the contributions. But if you have more to say, especially regarding effective ways of engaging with men and boys to achieve gender transformative impacts, please write in.

    • Ms. Clare Bishop

      FAO Gender Consultant with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division
      United Kingdom

      Feedback from the facilitator of the online discussion

      The recent contributions have highlighted various barriers which result in women missing out on opportunities, including:

      • Shortage of time: the huge burden of unpaid care work which takes up a big proportion of the time and energy of women and girls, leaving little for education, paid employment or their own businesses (Bedford from Italy); the seasonal workcare time trade-offs with negative implications not only for women’s opportunities for empowerment but also for the care of young children and their nutritional well-being (Rao from India); and the inability to share the care workload with men in settings where men have migrated to town (Rao from India);
      • Cultural norms held by parents and families: which prevent women and girls attending training and mentoring events to broaden their horizons and develop skills, or to participating in developmentoriented meetings (Chander from India);
      • Absence of legal recognition of women’s equal entitlements to resources as men (Rao from India), especially land tenure security (Holt from America);
      • Chronic poverty: which disproportionally affects households headed by women (Houngbo from Benin).

      What I have found particularly exciting in the recent contributions is the recognition of the importance of the household, not only in terms of women’s empowerment but also for transformational change that benefit all household members. McCarthy (from USA) draws attention to the benefits derived from cooperation within the household – through joint decision-making and shared visions – as distinct from women’s empowerment and increased bargaining power in the household. Houngbo (from Benin) talks about the importance of making households more viable and the role of reducing gender inequalities in a fight against chronic poverty, especially those headed by women.

      Ways of supporting change in cultural and social norms at the household level include: family counselling (Chander from India), participatory approaches through household methodologies (Bedford, Italy) and the Gender/Family Action Learning System (Mbuchi from Kenya); breaking away from traditional gender roles by encouraging sons – as well as daughters - to help their mothers at produce festivals (Sahakyan from Armenia); and overcoming mistrust by hiring women trainers and inviting husbands to accompany their wives to training (Sahakyan from Armenia).

      It is also recognised that, in some contexts, specific affirmative action is necessary to push forward on the women’s empowerment agenda. Examples include: creating space for women through women-only initiatives in Sudan (Marouf); promoting women’s dairy cooperatives in India (Chander); women’s employment on the metro train in India and positive media coverage of successful women (Peter); visibility for rural women’s produce through festivals in Armenia (Sahakyan); peer-to-peer exchanges among rural women initiated by the Huairou Commission (Holt from USA); child care facilities, especially in communities where men have migrated (Rao from India). Explicit legal recognition of women as farmers with equal entitlements as men (Rao from India), with legal frameworks both granting and protecting these rights (Holt from USA) is also essential.

      The use of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) as a tool for identifying the principal sources of women’s disempowerment was noted (Huang from China).

       

       

    • Ms. Clare Bishop

      FAO Gender Consultant with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division
      United Kingdom

      Feedback from the facilitator of the online discussion 

      Dear all, 

      Thank you to the early contributors for getting the discussion off to an interesting start.

      The main challenge is to secure a mindset shift which several contributors noted: How to help rural women gain self-respect and understanding of their role (Ekaterine Gurgenidze from Georgia)? How to encourage young girls to know how important they are to society (Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania)? How to overcome the traditional division of work between women and men, with respect to productive tasks (Mahesh Chander from India) and reproductive and care tasks (Marcela Ballara from Chile)? How to move on from the ‘Technical know who’, for example, where the private sector uses men to solve women’s problems, rather than letting women work to solve their own challenges (Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania)?

      Several pathways for change have been identified, including:

      - The crucial role of education and training (especially for non-agricultural rural work) in empowering women to look for more skilled opportunities (Bertha Yiberla Yenwo from Cameroon, Marcela Ballara from Chile, Mahesh Chander from India, Dr. Amanullah from Pakistan, Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania);

      - ICTs – and in particular smart phones with internet access – are also a game changer. As noted in India, social media are challenging social norms and encouraging women to be more assertive even though, at present, girls have less access to phones than boys.

      - The feminisation of rural areas, as a result of male outmigration, is enabling women to be recognised as the principal decision-makers and actors in the rural areas (Marcela Ballara from Chile and Kala Koyu from Nepal).

      - The growing agribusiness sector could engage more with women, working in groups to make their voice heard and supported by extension services reaching out to women and girls (Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania).

      - The importance of an enabling policy environment, such as the Rural Women's Dialogue Table in Chile, which focused on the integration of rural women into economic activity.

      But change is not without its challenges. Men can feel uncomfortable when traditional roles are challenged (Mahesh Chander from India) while women left to manage households in areas of male outmigration can be subject to negative public scrutiny and labelling which are degrading and demoralising (Kala Koyu from Nepal).

      Working with both men and women can overcome some of this backlash to change and result in gender transformative impacts. The Gender Action Learning System (GALS) encourages men and women to have common visions at household level and to analyse family issues that can hinder the achievement of these visions (Mbuchi Peter from Kenya). Through enabling both women and men to appreciate the benefits of more equitable approaches, the productive potential of the family is unlocked.

      Please share more examples of working with men and at household/family level to tackle the more fundamental causes of gender inequality.

      Clare