IFAD’s first Gender Awards honour achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment

At its latest Town Hall staff meeting – held on 18 October, just a few days after the International Day for Rural Women – IFAD announced its first Gender Awards for special achievements in gender equality and women’s empowerment. While the awards single out specific IFAD-supported initiatives for recognition, hundreds of other programmes and projects are also working to ensure that both women and men participate in, and benefit from, IFAD’s investments. As Kevin Cleaver, Associate Vice President for Programmes, noted at the Town Hall meeting, women now account for 49 per cent of all rural people benefiting from IFAD-financed operations.

IFAD launched the Gender Awards this year in line with its gender policy, adopted in 2012 to guide the institution’s work on closing gender gaps and improving the economic and social status of rural women. In each of the five regions where IFAD works, the award spotlights a programme or project that has taken an innovative approach to addressing gender inequalities and empowering women. The first round of awards went to operations funded by IFAD in Bangladesh, El Salvador, Ghana, Sudan and Uganda.

Following are brief profiles of the first IFAD Gender Award winners. Space does not permit detailed explanations of why each programme or project was selected, but the profiles highlight some of their innovative features.

Participants in the Sunamganj Community Based Resource
Management Project. ©IFAD
Asia and the Pacific
Sunamganj Community Based Resource Management Project, Bangladesh
This project has established labour contracting societies for the development of rural infrastructure, creating a unique opportunity for women to earn cash income. Women account for 40 per cent of the members of these societies, and their wages, work hours and benefits are equal to those of their male colleagues. Many invest their earnings in income-generating activities, which have further improved their economic and social situation. Women also comprise 75 per cent of implementation monitoring committee members, increasing their voice in community decision-making. And lessons learned from the project were taken up by the local government’s Engineering Department after the Project Director was selected to lead a team responsible for updating the department’s gender strategy.

The project team “was very proud of being selected for the award,” said Thomas Rath, former Country Programme Manager (CPM) for Bangladesh. “The award reflects what they have actively pursued in the project and as the institutional culture of the implementing agency: promoting a more gender-balanced, equitable development path.”

Family members participating in the District Livelihoods
Support Programme. ©IFAD
East and Southern Africa
District Livelihoods Support Programme, Uganda
This programme uses household mentoring to promote social inclusion and gender equality. All adult members of poor households are mentored together, enabling joint planning and priority-setting. Such family discussions ensure that not only men and women, but also adult children, have a voice in household decisions. Mentoring leads to behaviour changes such as workload redistribution and the inclusion of women and adult children, as well as men, on land registration certificates. The programme also encourages very poor households to start near-nil investments with their own available resources as a way of taking charge of their lives, and provides them with food security grants.

Alessandro Marini, CPM for Uganda, told the programme team that the Gender Award “is definitely deserved for the excellent work you have been doing with the household mentoring approach.” Lawrence Kasinga, Programme Coordinator, noted: “It is a great honour for us to be appreciated for the work we do. We promise to continue promoting the household methodologies as means of enabling the poor to come out of poverty.”

A beneficiary of the Rural Development and Modernization
Project for the Eastern Region. ©IFAD
Latin America and the Caribbean
Rural Development and Modernization Project for the Eastern Region, El Salvador
This project extends financial services to populations that usually don’t have access to them, focusing on women but not excluding men. The financial groups design their own fund management models. To close gender gaps and improve women’s quality of life, the project also supports literacy training circles; sexual health campaigns for women, men and couples; and fuel-efficient stoves, which reduce women’s time collecting wood. The project supported the formation of a women’s network, including women’s financial groups, to engage in dialogue with government (mainly at the municipal level) on securing and managing services.

“I would like to recognize the efforts made by people in the field,” said Glayson Ferrari dos Santos, CPM for El Salvador, referring to the project’s grassroots participants. “Many times we can´t see the true challenge that gender leaders face in their communities. They are trying to change years of years of a social inequality with respect to women and men.”

A celebratory moment for the Western Sudan
Resources Management Programme. ©IFAD
Near East, North Africa and Europe
Western Sudan Resources Management Programme,

Through community initiatives and saving and credit associations, this programme has empowered women in a particularly difficult context in North and South Kordofan. These self-sufficient associations have developed a strong savings culture amongst rural women, who account for more than 90 per cent of their membership. In addition, women now have more time to spend on income-generating activities, thanks to water supply facilities provided by the programme, and more husbands are expressing appreciation for their wives’ contributions to household income and well-being. This experience has enhanced women’s confidence in undertaking new economic activities, lifted their status and strengthened their participation in community development committees.

The Gender Award “motivates the project team to further action for gender empowerment,” said Sara Kouakou, Associate CPM for Sudan. “It encourages them to make additional efforts to scale up and share the results achieved, and to improve knowledge and understanding of gender issues among rural communities.” -

Women involved value addition activities in Ghana. ©IFAD
West and Central Africa
Northern Rural Growth Programme, Ghana
This programme supports the production of crops grown by women in the target area – particularly shea trees – and the inclusion of women in other male-dominated commodity chains. Two-thirds of programme participants are women, up from one quarter in 2009 and far exceeding the target level of 30 per cent. The programme has increased women’s access to land and other productive resources, and some have been able to triple their incomes thanks to direct linkages to international markets. Women are now represented on district-level value chain committees, as well. The programme has succeeded by using various innovative approaches, including the sensitization of traditional leaders and local District Assemblies about women’s participation and empowerment.

Niels Bossen, Associate CPM for Ghana, said staff members in the country office “were very proud and happy to receive the award.” He added: “The programme will continue its efforts working for more gender equality in rural Ghana.”