How do you ensure gender is meaningfully integrated into agriculture research and development projects and is not simply an add on to already well-defined and developed programs? Having been in agriculture research working on gender for the last 14 years, one of the most common and ineffective strategies I have seen have been to include a section in the proposal application on a gender strategy for the project. In most cases, this is supposed to be a paragraph or two, and in the case of gender generous donors, a page.
One of the most common phrases you would hear in the corridors of the research organizations where I have worked was “She does not do gender paragraphs!”
And why? Because paragraphs outside of the main project document are not funded! They are not allocated resources, human or financial. And in many cases, as soon as the implementation of the “project activities” starts, these paragraphs get forgotten.
I once was asked to do this, on the phone nonetheless, for a proposal that was due in a few days and for which the donor had asked for a section on the projects’ gender strategy. A short conversation later, after which the scientist had heard my version of “I don’t do gender paragraphs”, there was a plan to meet the whole team to discuss the key issues being addressed by the team and what the gender dimensions of these issues were.
So what are the six things that should be integrated into the proposal to meaningfully address gender?
- An analysis and documentation of the key research problem as it relates to gender; what are the gender dimensions of the problem? How does the problem affect men, women, girls and boys and how? What are the anticipated future impacts on these groups if the problem remains unsolved? What are these groups already doing about it? The answers to these questions need to be clearly articulated in the research problem and justification.
- Gender should be integrated in the objectives to address the problem and in some cases could be a stand-alone objective depending on how the problem affects different groups of men, women, boys and girls and the relations between and among them. Even in the event that gender is a stand-alone objective, other objectives of the proposal should reflect this gender dimension. Following these objectives should be clear gender focused research questions. For example, assuming a project on technology development, there should be clear research questions on how the technologies will affect men, women, boys and girls and they will affect gender relations.
- A gender analysis should be integrated as part of the research methodology. Gender analysis must include both qualitative and quantitative approaches to understand the what and the how.
- Following the gender analysis, there should be a clear articulation of the interventions or key activities and processes to address key gender issues identified in 1 and 3. Two kinds of interventions should be considered (a) interventions that are gender aware and accommodate current gender relations. These are a useful starting point especially for technical projects (2) interventions that transform gender relations. While accommodative interventions only address the symptoms of gender inequalities such as access to resources, information etc, transformative approaches address the root causes of gender inequality including cultural norms. These often require the involvement of men and women to transform gender relations.
- A monitoring and evaluation system that tracks data on men and women, on changes in gender relations and on men and women’s perspectives of changes and processes. This will require disaggregation of data on adoption, income, assets and other variables. Researchers should not that comparing types of households such as male and female headed households can mask important information on men and women residing in male headed households.
- Resources: The human and financial capacity to do the gender work must be included, otherwise gender becomes an add-on that is done if there are additional resources, or is dropped if there are not enough resources. Partnerships that can bring in needed expertise especially on transformative approaches is key.
So next time you are tempted to add a gender paragraph to your proposal or project document, think about these six things and how much more likely your project is to succeed if you meaningfully and comprehensively address gender.