In Sub-Saharan Africa and South/South-East Asia, millions of rural households subsist by producing products such as grains, pulses, textiles, coffee, cocoa, and shrimps. Typically these are bought by middle traders and sold into the global food market.
Many organizations are working to help rural households produce more and higher-quality crops, which can command better prices, and to manage their money more effectively through access to loans, savings and insurance products. Yet often projects in agricultural value chains, local economic development, financial and extension services focus narrowly on technologies and/or crops. They don’t explicitly tackle the social norms or customary and legal frameworks which underlie power imbalances between ethnic groups, women and men; urban and rural; or literate and non-literate people. These power imbalances mean men often make little contribution to household welfare, while women have little say in household decisions.
Globally three quarters of working age men are in the labour force compared to half of working age women. Among those who are employed, women constitute nearly two thirds of ‘contributing family workers’, who work in family businesses without any direct pay. Women continue to be denied equal pay for work of equal value and are less likely than men to receive a pension, which translates into large income inequalities throughout their lives. Yet in all regions women work more than men: on average they do almost two and a half times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men, and if paid and unpaid work are combined, women in almost all countries work longer hours than men each day (UN Women, 2015). Other key gender inequalities are related to property ownership, domestic violence, mobility and decision making. Overcoming these inequalities provides pathways out of poverty and is essential for sustainable inclusive growth.
The WEMAN project works throughout three dfferent strategies.
Firstly, we enable vulnerable women and men to identify their visions for the future, what obstacles stand in the way of achieving them, and how they can overcome those obstacles. We use a methodology called the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) , through which both women and men come to see themselves not as victims of forces beyond their control but as the joint authors of their own destinies. GALS is typically integrated in economic interventions. The first step is creating commitment, action learning skills and informal peer learning networks for changing gender relations, see the manual for the GALS Catalyst Phase. The methodology can be integrated into rural finance, value chain development and agricultural extension, see for example the GALS guide. When a critical mass of women and men are actively using GALS, it can be used for advocacy and movement building. This creates wider support for women’s economic empowerment in public and private institutions, and helps to change social norms.
Secondly, we work with the people who deal with these men and women in their business lives – for example, sellers of seeds and fertilizer, microfinance institutions (MFIs), civil society organizations (CSOs) and buyers of their products – to help them develop relationships which are fair and sustainable and respect gender equality. See the example of the Gender in Value chain Development project (GENVAD).
Thirdly, we encourage people in local communities and the institutions that influence them to learn from each other and join together to advocate for policy changes at local, regional and global levels.
WEMAN aims to contribute to sustainable livelihoods, rural wealth creation and gender equality in Sub-Sahara Africa and Asia. Some of the typical ways that WEMAN changes the lives of poor and marginalized rural communities include:
Women having the right to own agricultural land and having secure access to the land. Previously, they could be chased away by in-laws or local chiefs in case of divorce due to family conflicts or death of male relatives.
Households now have more savings, giving them greater resilience against unexpected expenses. Previously, household income was often wasted on alcohol abuse and household products were frequently sold below market value to realize an urgent need for cash.
Men now help with tasks such as fetching water and firewood and looking after children. Previously, these burdens were carried only by women.
Households now get higher incomes and productivity by collectively investing in storage and processing equipment, forming groups to negotiate better prices for seeds and other inputs, and selling their products collectively in bulk. Thus positioning themselves as attractive partners for buyers and investment funds. Previously, people distrusted each other and operated individually.
Please read these case studies of our partner organizations in Uganda and Rwanda. They’ll give you a good idea of the Gender Action Learing System in practice: