Posts Tagged ‘gender equality’

Four ways of strengthening gender equality in the agricultural sector in the MENA region

by Dina Najjar and Lone Badstue

Growing vegetables in Tunisia. Photo: ICARDA

When it comes to labor markets, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is one of the most gender unequal regions in the world. The male labor force participation rate in MENA is no different from other regions, at around 75%, but female labor force participation rates have remained stubbornly low, at around 20% .

Agriculture is the largest employer of women in the MENA region and the female share of the agricultural workforce increased from 30% in 1980 to almost 45% in 2010, exceeding 60% in Jordan, Libya, Syria and the occupied Palestinian Territory. However, women in the region still face significant challenges accessing land and benefitting from technologies and decent, equitable working conditions.

In the fall of 2019, a group of experts, including London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) professor of Gender and Development Naila Kabeer, came together to discuss the persistent limited access to labor market opportunities for women in South Asia and MENA, despite an increase in women’s education and access to fertility planning. The workshop organized by LSE discussed barriers, opportunities and policy challenges.

Vegetable gardening in Tunisia. (Photo: ICARDA)
Vegetable gardening in Tunisia. (Photo: ICARDA)

We share some of the expert panel’s key recommendations for the MENA region, which featured research funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat.

1. Recognize women as workers not helpers

According to the World Bank, agriculture employs 36% of women and 22% of men in Egypt. However, research shows that women who work in agriculture are widely categorized as “helpers” to male workers rather than workers in their own right. What’s more, women are listed as “housewives” on their national ID cards, while men are listed as “agricultural workers.” As a result, these women are unable to even access opportunities to bargain for better wages and working conditions.

Legally and socially recognizing these women as workers is a first step to introducing equal pay legislation for men and women in agriculture. It would also justify their inclusion in agricultural extension services and strengthen social protection measures.

2. Change perceptions of property ownership

The MENA region has the lowest level of women’s landownership in the world, at just 5%. Our research findings indicate completely different perceptions of ownership among women and men.

Research in Egypt shows that women tend to identify land officially owned solely by themselves as belonging to themselves and their husbands. Men, on the other hand, are less likely to consider their wives as co-owners, identifying male relatives instead.

In the New Lands — lands irrigated after the building of the High Aswan Dam in Egypt — there are land distribution quotas to encourage more land ownership among women. This has enabled some women to gain significant economic, social and political power. Despite this, these women still prefer to bequeath their land to their sons rather than their daughters due to social pressure and the expectation that their sons will provide for them in their old age.

To mitigate these low levels of women’s land ownership, policy change on its own is not enough. Changing perceptions of land and property ownership needs to go hand in hand with changes at a policy level.

3. Enforce legislation for equal pay and zero tolerance for sexual harassment

In Morocco, female employment in agriculture has jumped from 29% in 1980 to 48% in 2010. However, women’s wages, working conditions and bargaining power have not risen with it.

Research shows that women are designated lower paid and more time-consuming tasks, and are systemically paid less than men, even for the same tasks. Women agricultural workers also face high levels of sexual harassment and have limited bargaining power.

Moroccan legislation already stipulates equal pay and zero tolerance for sexual harassment. However, enforcement remains extremely weak. Enforcing existing pro-active legislation is an essential step towards equality for women in agriculture.

4. Revitalize agriculture as a valuable and necessary occupation in society

Much of the world sees agriculture as an occupation of last resort. When surveyed, men and women in Morocco both complained about agricultural work being an unstable and unreliable way of making a living. Women were found to be hired more easily but only because they were paid less than men.

To shift how agriculture is viewed and rebrand it as an important and respected occupation, it needs to be reformed as a safer, more equal and respectful space for both women and men.

Building resilience for smallholder farmers in marginal drylands. (Photo: ICARDA)
Building resilience for smallholder farmers in marginal drylands. (Photo: ICARDA)

A key overall take-away message from the expert panel is that supportive policies alone are not enough. Rather, in order to tackle the institutionalization of harmful gender norms and stimulate actual change in practice at all levels, policy interventions need to go hand in hand with strong consciousness-raising, critical reflection and behavior change initiatives.

Read the full report:
Women’s access to market opportunities in South Asia and the Middle East & North Africa: barriers, opportunities and policy challenges

Happy Rural Women’s Day!

Women and girls play a crucial role in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing. Globally, one in three employed women works in agriculture

However, women farmers are less able to access land, credit, agricultural inputs and markets to receive the best prices for their crops. Structural barriers and discriminatory social norms also constrain rural women’s decision-making power and community participation.

This International Day of Rural Women, we honor women working in wheat and highlight ways to meet their needs. Click the thumbnails below to explore these stories of amazing women working in wheat.

Women’s equality crucial for Ethiopia’s agricultural productivity and wheat self-sufficiency goals

This op-ed by CIMMYT researchers Kristie Drucza and Mulunesh Tsegaye  was originally published in the Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter .

A farmer stacking harvested wheat Dodola district, Ethiopia. Photo: CIMMYT/P. Lowe

The Government of Ethiopia recently announced an ambitious goal to reach wheat self-sufficiency by 2022, eliminating expensive wheat imports and increasing food security.

However, a new report based on a four-year research project on gender and productivity in Ethiopia’s wheat sector indicates that a lack of technical gender research capacity, a shortage of gender researchers and low implementation of gender-focused policies is hampering these efforts.

Gender equality is crucial for agricultural productivity. Women head a quarter of rural households in Ethiopia. However, faced with low or no wages, limited access to credit and constrained access to land and other resources, they produce 23 percent less per hectare than men. Women in male-headed households have even more limitations, as gender norms often exclude them from community power structures, extension services and technical programs. According to the World Bank, a failure to recognize the roles, differences and inequities between men and women poses a serious threat to the effectiveness of Ethiopia’s agricultural development agenda.

The good news is the Government of Ethiopia has taken positive steps towards encouraging gender equality, with agriculture leading the way. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed signaled his commitment to strengthening Ethiopia’s gender equality by appointing women to 50 percent of his cabinet and appointing the country’s first female president, defense minister and chief justice. The government’s Gender Equality Strategy for Ethiopia’s Agriculture Sector is a welcome improvement on past agriculture policies, and its latest Wheat Sector Development Strategy focuses on promoting women´s participation in extension and training programs. Under the leadership of Director General Mandefro Nigussie, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR) has drafted a strategy for gender mainstreaming, developed gender guidelines and recruited 100 new female scientists, constituting the highest percentage of women researchers in its history.

However, according to our research, there is a clear gap between policies and actions. Women living in male-headed households face different constraints from those in female-headed households, yet very little data exists on them. Ethiopia’s wheat strategy and other policies do not have sex-disaggregated indicators and targets. Women are seen as a homogeneous category in policy, meaning that certain groups of women miss out on assistance.

To strengthen women’s role in the agriculture sector, more internal reflection on gender and learning is required across institutions and organizations. Our new report offers a full list of recommendations for the research, policy and donor communities. Among other suggestions, we recommend that:
• the research sector move beyond surveying household heads and use diverse research methods to understand systems within farming households;
• the education ministry develop a Gender in Agriculture specialization at a national university to make progress filling the existing gaps in expertise and that
• donors invest more in gender-related agriculture research.

Ethiopia has taken great strides towards recognizing the important role of women in agricultural productivity. If it wants to become self-sufficient in wheat—and meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs)—it must make the extra effort to follow through with these efforts. At this critical time, the country cannot afford to ignore women’s needs.

The “Understanding Gender in Wheat-based Livelihoods for Enhanced WHEAT R4D Impact” project ran from 2014 to 2018 and sought to improve the focus on gender and social equity in wheat-related research and development in Ethiopia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In Ethiopia, the project included analysis of literature and gender policies, a stakeholder analysis of government and non-government actors, qualitative research with 275 male and female farmers and a gender audit and capacity assessment of EIAR. 

This research was made possible by the generous financial support of BMZ — the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany.