This piece was originally published on CGIAR’s Gender Platform News website and authored by Sarah Cole. Click here to read the original article in full.

Gender gaps in education, accessing and owning land and formalized banking have been persistent, though increasing rates of girls’ education are encouraging. Women’s empowerment has been recognized as an important development goal—however, traditions, especially in rural locations, often thwart efforts towards greater gender equality. Interventions in such contexts must be well thought out so they do not create or exacerbate gender-based violence.

“Trying to increase women’s financial opportunities and bring more money into the household disrupts the balance of power in the household, which can increase gender-based violence in homes and communities,” says Samantha Croasdaile, leader of the USAID Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program.

“Gender-based violence is really an umbrella term for a harmful threat or act,” she explains. “It is towards a person or group because of their sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation or lack of adherence to masculinity or femininity.”

Gender expert Dr. Renee Bullock and Samantha spoke at a webinar in September 2021 run by the CGIAR GENDER Platform and the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program: Addressing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Agriculture and Food Security Programs. Gender-based violence (GBV) can be physical and sexual violence against people who diverge from their society’s ‘rules’ about what it means to be male or female. It can also include emotional and economic acts of harm, as well as sexual exploitation, abuse, and harassment.

Samantha warns that GBV can have far-reaching effects for food security and agriculture by:

  • reducing on- and off-farm capacity
  • restricting access to extension and community support
  • increasing household costs
  • preventing participation in markets, community enterprises, and savings and loans groups
  • reducing economic output
  • contributing to decreased productivity.

Transforming gender in agriculture requires data and practical action

“Earlier in my career,” says Samantha, “people were mainly studying women’s portrayals in the media, for example—but not looking for evidence about causes of inequities or ways to make life better for real people.”

“This made me realize why gender in development is so hard. We still didn’t have enough strong evidence”.

The data that researchers need ranges from who gets to decide on how to use household income, to when and how gender-based violence occurs or how this violence shapes so much of the survivors’ and perpetrators’ lives. Without such data, Samantha notes, “it’s hard to build understanding and develop the tactics or tools that could make change possible”.

Good practices help develop a tool to combat gender-based violence

Katie Cheney, the AWE team lead at EnCompass LLC who also spoke at the webinar, is working with a team of partners, including ACDI/VOCA, MarketShare Associates, FHI360, and an independent consultant to develop a toolkit to address GBV in agriculture and market systems development programs. As a first step, the team developed an annotated resources list to address GBV in agriculture.

The first step for her team was to identify resources that were:

  • already used by practitioners or could be easily adapted for use
  • evidence-based
  • used for training, but could be turned into tools
  • widely recognized or gold-standard GBV guidelines or tools.

Through a desk review, interviews, and profiling of papers, Katie’s team identified nine resources featured in an annotated resources list, and that could inform developing a new tool. She says they also pinpointed features of best practice within ‘GBV in agriculture’ resources—namely, tools that were survivor-centered, usable, adaptable, sustainable and scalable. Their next step identified the needs and wishes of many experts and practitioners through interviews, focus groups, validation meetings and workshops.

“We could then reflect on our findings and prioritize information to develop our GBV prevention, mitigation, and response tool,” says Katie.

USAID tool helps practitioners apply GBV work at any stage of a project

Friederike Strub of MarketShare Associates, a gender expert and analyst on the AWE team, shared more about the toolkit that the AWE team is developing. This toolkit is specifically designed to help agricultural specialists and market systems practitioners understand the complexity of GBV, and what to do about it.

Part one of the toolkit is learning to see the links. It can help people identify where GBV happens in the value chains that their program works with, and how it can affect the success of the project activities. Part two is a gift to practitioners already running a program: how to integrate GBV tools anywhere during a program’s lifespan.

The AWE team is currently partnering with a Feed the Future project in Uganda to test and revise the toolkit.
After improving the toolkit and learning how to best support people using it, it is expected for release and publishing in mid-2022.

Photo: CGIAR/C. de Bode