New initiative between the European Union and the Rome-based agencies puts spotlight on gender transformative approaches

Photo credit: Sarisaina Wilco







Clare Bishop, Gender and rural livelihoods specialist

The opportunities for promoting gender transformative approaches (GTAs) received a major boost last week. The gender teams of the three Rome-based agencies, FAO, IFAD and WFP, signed a €5 million grant agreement with the European Union. They will share, field test and disseminate various GTAs to contribute to deeper and more sustainable development outcomes under SDG2 on ending hunger.

For IFAD, this presents an opportunity to broaden the ongoing work on household methodologies (HHM) as a mechanism for identifying and addressing the underlying causes of gender inequalities at the household level. IFAD has built up a decade of experience of working on HHM and, in preparation for the grant, conducted a stock-take exercise of HHM activities in the loan portfolio. In the context of IFAD’s work, HHM refers to two approaches: the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) and household mentoring for social inclusion.

Results from the stocktaking: scale and attractions of HHM
Almost one quarter of the current loan portfolio (51 out of 211) is, or has a commitment to, integrating HHM into project activities. They cover 26 countries, with over half being based in East and Southern Africa. Five hotspots were identified where HHM are well-established (classified as HHM-competent: Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Uganda).

IFAD practitioners, such as CPMs and project staff, cite five main reasons why HHM are attractive:
  • the methodology is flexible and adaptable to examining inequalities and identifying practical solutions in many different contexts, from natural resource management and agriculture to agribusiness, enterprise development and rural finance; 
  • IFAD works with groups which act as natural entry points to introduce GALS, for example, farmer field schools, farmer organizations, savings and credit groups, water users’ associations, fishers groups, adult literacy classes, youth groups, labour construction groups and forest associations. Not only do these groups provide an entry point to train members in the GALS methodology but, through that process, it also improves the performance of the groups themselves; 
  • HHM are inclusive, engaging with poorer households (especially through household mentoring), men and the youth, as well as women; 
  • they generate positive changes in mindsets and behaviours in intra-household dynamics in a short space of time because all household members are on the same journey, they are in control of the process and the outcomes are ‘win-win’ for all; and 
  • they make project benefits not only more profound (both in terms of productivity gains and well-being) but also more sustainable by developing mechanisms of motivation and self-reliance. 

Why does an intra-household approach resonate with IFAD’s work?
IFAD has described its vision for the post-2015 rural world, in terms of poverty reduction, people and communities building prosperous and sustainable livelihoods, families achieving food and nutrition security, families living in dignity and the aspirations of youth for a better life. However, in order to deliver on this vision it is necessary to dig deeper into what happens inside the household.

For example, whilst it may be possible to eliminate poverty or food and nutrition insecurity at the household level, is that vision achieved if members within those households still remain poor or malnourished? In many contexts, women have little voice over how the household income is spent, including their own earnings, and women and children often eat less nutritious foods than men and eat last. Similarly, how can rural poor people and young people be empowered to build their own livelihoods if they don’t have a voice in the fora in which their livelihood options are determined? And finally, can every family member live in dignity when discriminatory norms, such as gender-based violence, are commonplace?

Consequently, intra-household dynamics are crucial to the achievement of IFAD’s post-2015 vision. Many who have witnessed first-hand the impacts of HHM on the lives of individuals and their families appreciate the relevance of addressing gender inequalities within the household for the achievement of broader development objectives.

EU grant
The grant will support the activities of the Rome-based agencies to embed GTA in policy dialogue, programmes, institutional culture and working modalities, including improved synergies and effectiveness of interventions, over the period 2018 to 2022.

In addition to activities directly related to GTAs, the grant will strengthen the capacity of employees and partners to mainstream GTA into policy engagement and programme/project design, implementation and monitoring; and stimulate an evidence-based dialogue with senior management to increase understanding about, and appreciation for, the relevance and benefits of GTA for the achievement of SDG2. 

GTA process is underway
IFAD is looking forward to this opportunity to share experiences with FAO and WFP and, together, develop and promote a more innovative gender transformative agenda to deliver on SDG2. The process is already underway. On 25 November, for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD’s President, cited HHM as a mechanism for reducing gender-based violence at the household level. IFAD has introduced HHM to the Joint Programme ‘Economic Empowerment of Rural Women’ (with FAO, IFAD, WFP and UN Women) in Kyrgyzstan. And IFAD’s new grant with Oxfam Novib and Hivos will establish regional hubs and a global network of practitioners in order to support the implementation of HHM in the field.

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