IFAD Gender Awards 2017 Commemorate Innovation and Celebrate Female Empowerment

By Kalin Schultz

IFAD’s Director of Communications, Cassandra Waldon opened the 2017 IFAD Gender Awards with a strong statement: “It is clear that if we do not empower women, we will not eradicate hunger or poverty”.

Women’s empowerment was the topic of the day on November 25th as representatives from five IFAD-supported programmes, one from each region, gathered at headquarters to receive their awards and share their experiences. As an intern, I felt very privileged to attend this ceremony and the following knowledge sharing event.

The winning countries were Bangladesh, Mozambique, Colombia, Morocco and Mauritania. These projects were honoured due to their clear prioritization of gender equality and women’s empowerment, as well as their impressive results. These included increasing numbers of women in leadership positions, improved access to assets, inputs and resources, and training in literacy and commercial skills.

After the awards had been presented, there was a roundtable discussion where the winners discussed the challenges and successes of their programmes. It was remarkable to hear them recount where the communities started and how far they have come in including women in crucial aspects of society. They were obviously enthusiastic to engage in conversation and answer questions. The passion for their work filled the room.

A lot of emphasis was put on the importance of building women’s confidence and self-esteem. As stated by a representative of the Building Rural Entrepreneurial Capacities Programme: Trust and Opportunity (TOP) project in Columbia, “The women’s population had completely lost trust in themselves”. The Columbia-based programme now has 600 micro projects that focus specifically on women.

The focus of these programmes on female inclusion yields positive effects for the entire community. Representatives from Morocco discussed the way that rural women have become a symbol of power and will in their communities, and with more support from their male family members, they have been able to balance their daily household responsibilities with economic activities, parenting and food provision.

Although progress starts at the local level, sustainability and lasting progress can only be achieved with the support of local and national governments. As discussed by Carla Honwana and Mário Quissico, representatives from the Rural Markets Promotion Programme in Mozambique, they had to work with local leaders and influencers as well as government level officials. “If we do not help the government on the roles [of the project] it will not be sustainable, so we work with government on every level,” they said.

The event closed with a recognition of the 16 Days of Activism (#orangetheworld) against gender-based violence. This truly put into perspective the impact and importance of the work that is being done, but also showed how far we have to go.