Gender integration in research: So where do we start?


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Jemimah Njuki

Gender integration has become a common topic within research and development circles. The key question is now not whether to integrate gender in a program, but how. So where to start?

Most people now recognize that agriculture research and development must be gender responsive and must address the needs of both men and women, while recognizing and addressing the unequal access to resources and differential levels of productivity between men and women.

There are several imperatives to integrating gender in agriculture research and development programs. One is the recognition of the different roles that men and women play in agriculture, especially in developing countries, and with these different roles, comes different needs and constraints. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that globally, women provide 43% of the agricultural labor and in some countries in Africa, this can often go to as high as 60%.  This is in addition to the roles played by women in care work, which often goes unrecognized (FAO, 2011).

There has been extensive documentation of the  inequality in the allocation of, access to and ownership of key productive resources in Agriculture, that has an impact on productivity. Reducing the gaps in access to productive resources has been shown to increase agricultural productivity by upto 30% (FAO, 2011). The Wold Bank however argues, that this access to resources by women smallholder farmers must be accompanied by increasing women’s voice and agency and addressing social and cultural norms that limit their choices (World Bank, 2014).

As a result, organizations have developed strategies to integrate gender in their work and to ensure they are empowering women. More often than not however, most organizations have struggled to identify what the entry points for gender integration might be and how they can make the process more systematic and the integration more meaningful. Many organizations and programs have as a result ended up with gender policies and strategies that are broad, not clear on actions and therefore unimplementable.

While there is a lot of nuance in how gender should be integrated in different kinds of research programs, based on whether the research is upstream or downstream, the focus of the research and existing capacities, below are 5 clear entry points that provide guidance to research organizations or research programs looking for a systematic process for gender integration.