The power of evidence for gender equality and women’s empowerment in livestock

G. Smith (ILRI)

Report back from USAID’s Gender Global Learning & Evidence Exchange (GLEE) 2023 conference in Accra, Ghana

By Fiona Allan

In November 2023, I attended the Gender Global Learning and Evidence Exchange (GLEE) conference, in Accra, Ghana, along with SEBI-L gender and livestock consultant Beth Miller.  We were invited by USAID’s Bureau for Resilience, Environment, and Food Security to join USAID staff, field practitioners and implementing and strategic partners working on gender, food and water systems, nutrition, climate adaptation and resilience.  The conference was a platform to discuss challenges and solutions for increasing gender attributions with meaningful programming, collaborating across sectors, and further advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment in agriculture and related sectors.  It was an ideal opportunity to spread the word on LD4D’s Gender and Livestock Data Community of Practice (CoP) and present some projects from our community.

Sharing insights from the community

We presented in the session ‘Who is this Designed For?  Ensuring Equitable and Inclusive Programming of Agricultural Innovations’, highlighting key principles for designing and scaling agricultural technologies for women and other marginalised people.  Our session began with a presentation by Emma Bratton, DVM, Research Program Advisor at USAID, who highlighted the importance of agricultural innovations and ensuring their design and scaling are inclusive and equitable.  I presented findings from the SheVax+ project in Rwanda to demonstrate how gender norms such as women’s heavier  time burdens need to be considered when developing livestock vaccination  programs. SheVax+ is part of the International Development Research Centre’s (IDRC) Livestock Vaccine Innovation Fund (LVIF) cohort of projects, and they have also recently shared their work in the LD4D Gender & Livestock Data CoP.

In her presentation, Beth used Heifer International’s East Africa Dairy Development project as an example to demonstrate women-centred agricultural technology design. Dr Erin McGuire, Director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Horticulture, UC Davis, concluded the session, presenting examples of incorporating gender and social inclusion into value chain analysis, and led a breakout activity to demonstrate an inclusive scaling plan.  Participants were highly engaged throughout the session, followed by keen discussion after the presentations and activity.

Fiona Allan (second from right) presented work from the LD4D Gender & Livestock Data Community of practice. She is pictured with Beth Miller (SEBI-Livestock Gender & Livestock consultant), Emma Bratton (USAID) and Erin McGuire (UC Davis).

Learning from others

Multiple technical sectors were involved in the event, including nutrition, WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), agriculture, and climate and resilience.  Presenters shared evidence-based cases for why gender equality and women’s empowerment are essential to each sector, yet still challenging to implement and monitor.

An excellent session was given on ‘Setting the Direction for Transformative Programming’, discussing the importance of evidence in policy-making and programming, and using the Reach-Benefit-Empower-Transform (RBET) framework to clarify project objectives.  The concept of cost-effectiveness as a framework for prioritising interventions that will most effectively reach, benefit, and empower women in activity design was also introduced.

Programmatic case studies were used to allow participants to surface strategies, approaches, tools and partnerships that have shaped the activities’ approach to gender integration and related successes and lessons learned.

USAID presented its commitment ‘GROW’ (Generating Resilience and Opportunities for Women), which was launched earlier this year. GROW introduces key evidence on the importance of moving from merely reaching women and girls to empowering them and transforming gender norms to ensure the sustainability and inclusivity of economic growth.  This was followed by participants describing what they already do, what they could be doing, and what could be done differently. Some of the ‘wishes’ for what could be done included being more deliberate in working with men and boys; having clear gender indicators, and being more deliberate in gender transformation at the design stage; budgeting for revisiting projects after completion; community visioning (what are the community’s priorities); and ‘joining the dots’ by programming across sectors.  We were reminded that to change social norms well takes additional time as well as financial resource.

Evidence-based approaches to gender equality

Throughout the event was the resounding message of the gender equality imperative and the role of evidence.  As one session participant put it, gender equality is not only the right thing but it is the smart thing; where women are empowered, the whole household and community can benefit.

“If half of small-scale producers benefitted from development interventions focused on empowering women, it would significantly raise the incomes of an additional 58 million people and increase the resilience of an additional 235 million people” (FAO. 2023. The status of women in agrifood systems.)

Fiona Allan is a Researcher (Animal Health) with SEBI-Livestock, based at the University of Edinburgh. She provides support to the monitoring and learning team and helps convene the LD4D Livestock & Gender Data Community of Practice.