Changing perceptions on gender equality


At the TEDx on Women in Agriculture -Washingto DC

The last few days, I have been reading a few recent documents on gender issues in Africa. One of the interesting ones is the Afrobarometer study on  public perceptions on gender equality. ( This is a study that covers 34 countries and interviews over 50,000 people. While the report shows great support for gender equality in the continent, the devil, as people say, is in the details.

A majority of women say women should have equal rights with men and not have to be subjected to customary law, and this support has been going up since the first Afrobarometer survey in 2002. One in three Africans think only men should be elected as political leaders, and close to one in five believe that if funds were limited, priority for education should be given to the boy, rather than to the child with the best ability.

Women are worse off in North Africa where they face much more discrimination. Perceptions of gender equality in these countries is quite mixed especially between men and women. Only a third of the men believe a woman can be president or that a woman should initiate divorce. And women’s perceptions are quite similar! Only a half of the women believe a woman can be president or prime minister or should initiate a divorce. This lack of confidence in women’s own belief of their capabilities and rights comes from an acceptance of the status quo–if a situation is manifested for a long time, it starts to seem  normal and acceptable!

And this phenomena is not just in politics or leadership. In a study my former colleagues and I did at the International Livestock Research Institute, we found that close to 70% of women believed that if they suffered gender based violence, it was because they deserved it and a similar proportion believed such cases should not be discussed with the public or reported to the police because they are internal family issues.

This acceptance of the status quo of gender inequality has implications for development programs, civil rights and women’s rights organisations.  For gender equality to be achieved, it has to start with changing the perceptions of both men and women towards gender equality and especially building women’s confidence and women’s awareness of their self worth and of their rights.



Assessing progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls: Progress made but more needs to be done!


The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) met last month for its 58th session. The main agenda was to review progress made on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for women and girls.

The main message coming out of the meeting was yes, progress has been made, but much more needs to be done to reduce gender inequalities across all the MDGs. The Commission noted that the achievement of the MDGs has been slow and uneven both within and across countries.

While there is a goal (MDG 3) dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, gender is relevant and critical in the achievement of all the other goals, and the achievement of these goals is critical for the status of women and girls.

The assessment does not paint a rosy picture of the status of the MDGs as far as women and girls are concerned. In three of the MDGs, the commission noted positive progress, while in the other five, it was clear targets would not be met.

Some of the MDGs where progress has been made is MDG 2 (Achieve universal primary education) where significant progress has been made in net primary school enrolments and towards eliminating gender disparity in primary education enrolment. The commission however expressed concern on the focus on numbers at primary level that has led to less focus on quality of education and transition of girls and young women to secondary and tertiary education. The majority of youth lacking basic education are young women.

Another goal where progress has been made is MDG 4 (Reduce child mortality) where significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality globally including through the efforts to eliminate new HIV infections and vertical transmissions in children, and other factors including lack of vaccines, malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, hunger and anemia. The commission however notes the interconnectedness of child mortality and women’s empowerment and the targets for this goal may be missed especially for poor countries and countries with high gender inequalities.

For MDG 7, the assessment concludes that while progress has been made globally in access to safe drinking water, progress on access to basic sanitation has been particularly slow, and the target is likely to be missed, with serious implications for women and girls, especially those living in vulnerable conditions. The Commission expressed concern at the disproportionate impact of climate change, natural disasters and other environmental disasters on women and girls.

On all the other MDGs, the commission notes that little progress has been made globally and there are great disparities between countries. Women remain disproportionally poorer than men, labour markets and wages remain unequal, maternal mortality remains high especially in poor and rural areas, number of women with HIV has increased globally since 2001 and not enough funding is going to women focused programs.

Not enough progress has been made on MDG3 (Promote gender equality and empower women) where progress has been noted to be slow with: “persistent gender disparities in some regions in secondary and tertiary education enrolment; the lack of economic empowerment, autonomy, and independence of women including lack of integration into the formal economy, unequal access to full and productive employment and decent work, under-representation in non-agricultural wage employment, over-representation in low paid jobs and gender-stereotyped jobs like domestic and care work, and the lack of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value; as well as the unequal burden of unpaid care work and insufficient measures to reconcile paid work and care responsibilities; the persistence of discriminatory attitudes, norms, stereotypes, and legal frameworks; insufficient social protection and insurance coverage for women; and despite progress, the low proportion and unequal participation and representation of women at all levels of decision making, including in national parliaments and other governance structures”.

One of the main concerns by the commission that has implications for research is the absence of consistent sex disaggregated data that would allow for a rigorous assessment of the situation of women and girls with regards to all the eight MDGs. This needs to be looked at in the broader context of mainstreaming gender and integrating gender perspectives in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of future development goals.

The Commission recommends a standalone goal on Women’s empowerment and gender equality that takes into account aspects of gender inequality such as gender- based violence, women and girls disproportionate share of care and unpaid work, the gender wage gap, and women’s access to assets and productive resources including land that have been missing from the current goals.

Journal is out!


New International Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security (Agri-Gender)

LogoA new journal, the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and food Security (Agri-Gender) has been launched with the aim of providing a platform for researchers and practitioners to share information on research work on gender, agriculture and food security. The aim of Agri-Gender is to promote interdisciplinary research related to gender and the agricultural and food sciences.

It is an open access, peer-reviewed and refereed journal that will publish in the fields of agriculture including livestock, fisheries, crop sciences, agriculture economics, rural development, food security and nutrition as they relate to gender. The journal will also publish papers on issues of women’s empowerment, feminist and gender studies. It seeks to promote debate, identify best practices and new ideas and make the links between theoretical and practical gender and agriculture work. It will combine rigorous research with insights from development initiatives across the world that have implications for policy and practice in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women in the agriculture and food related sectors.  The editors of the journal are drawn from research and academia across the globe.

The Journal is currently accepting papers for the August 2014 issue. More information on the journal requirements can be found at  Follow  us on the Agri-Gender blog (,  Facebook ( and twitter (@AgriGender).

Women. Livestock ownership and markets: Bridging the gender gap in eastern and southern Africa


By Peter Ballantyne


Authored by Jemimah Njuki and Pascal Sanginga, this book provides empirical evidence from Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique and from different production systems of the importance of livestock as an asset to women and their participation in livestock and livestock product markets. It explores the issues of intra-household income management and economic benefits of livestock markets to women, focusing on how types of markets, the types of products and women’s participation in markets influence their access to livestock income.
The book further analyses the role of livestock ownership, especially women’s ownership of livestock, in influencing household food security though increasing household dietary diversity and food adequacy. Additional issues addressed include access to resources, information and financial services to enable women more effectively to participate in livestock production and marketing, and some of the factors that influence this access.

Practical strategies for increasing women’s market participation and access to information and services are discussed. The book ends with recommendations on how to mainstream gender in livestock research and development if livestock are to serve as a pathway out of poverty for the poor and especially for women.

Download the book from or order it from

A reflection on gender and agriculture-IWD 2014


On sturday, the 8th of March, the world will celebrate International Women’s Day. This years theme is “Equality for women is progress for all”. While the world has made a lot of progress in closing gender gaps and empowering women, a lot still needs to happen. This years theme reminds us that gender equality has benefits for whole households, communities, and countries.

Reflecting on where we are on agriculture, I revisited the TEDx Washing Circle: Igniting Change where Ruth Meinzen-Dick and Agnes Quisumbing of the International Food Policy Insitute and I talked about progress and approaches that work in empowering women in agriculture. Watch and be inspired!

At the TEDx on Women in Agriculture -Washingto DC