Gender transformative approaches: Beyond gender business as usual

By Clare Bishop Sambrook

On Friday 12 July, the IFAD gender desk hosted a very stimulating presentation by Ranjitha Puskar, senior scientist from the WorldFish Center in Penang, who is heading up the gender activities in the CGIAR Aquatic Agricultural Systems. WorldFish is taking the lead on promoting gender transformative approaches (GTA), a step beyond ‘business as usual’ by addressing not only the consequences of gender inequality but also its causesThe event attracted interest from around the house and colleagues from WFP and Gender inAgriculture Partnership (Global Forum for Agricultural Research).

GTA provides the chapeau for the ongoing work that thegender desk is undertaking to promote household methodologies in order to realise the productive potential of smallholder households. A workshop/writeshop will be held in Uganda in October, with financial support from the Government of Japan.
Moving beyond closing the gender gap

Close the gender gap in access to resources and services, and ensure women have a voice!

This has been the mantra of the gender and development community for decades
And progress has been made

We now see women ….
Gaining new skills and seizing opportunities
Engaging in market-linked activities
Accessing finance
Entering the world of profitable entrepreneurship
And participating and leading groups, from small producers to apex organizations

But is this enough?

Is a woman empowered….
If she has no voice within her home?
Is overburdened by laborious household tasks that consume her time, energy and damage her health?
Does not control the income she earns?
Is unable to prioritise the use of scarce household resources?
Cannot determine the number of children she willbear?
Is subject to domestic violence?

No! Merely closing the gender gap is necessary but not sufficient

We need to move beyond addressing the symptoms of gender inequalities
To understand the underlying norms and cultures
That determine behaviour and shape attitudes
That define power relations in the household, community, market and organization
That are the fundamental barriers to achieving sustainable development for all

Society has demonstrated it hacapacity to change
Norms and practices that were once considered sacrosanct and inviolable
Have been adapted tthe new social realities,
Such as abandoning widow inheritance in high HIV-prevalence communities

And how can we do this?

We need to identify and address norms that perpetuate social inequality and women’s vulnerability
Engage with men and women for participatory learningdialogue and action
Support household planning to work towards common objectives that benefit all householdmembers
Create an enabling environment at the community level to support behaviour change

And then we need to ensure
That our understanding of the livelihoods, underlying norms and social behaviour of rural women and men
Lie at the heart of the design and implementation of IFAD-supported projects
To really enable the rural poor to overcome all forms of poverty.