Addressing Gender-Based Violence from an Agriculture Perspective Amid COVID-19 and Beyond
Addressing gender-based violence from an agriculture perspective amid COVID-19 and beyond
In the first of a three-part series, two USAID activity leaders share why Eastern and Southern Africa discuss why gender-based violence work is integral to agricultural development projects.
On a global scale, the COVID-19 crisis is only going to exacerbate issues that have long existed – food insecurity, health and gender inequity.
With COVID-19 lockdowns and tensions growing in communities, gender-based violence (GBV) has increased globally. The term “gender-based violence” covers a broad spectrum of violence including domestic abuse, child marriages, and genital mutilation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 35% of women in the world and 45% of women in Africa have experienced GBV in their lifetime, though it is also known that cases are drastically underreported. GBV was a threat to food security long before COVID-19.
The United Nations Population Fund recently estimated that for every three months that countries are in COVID-19-related lockdowns, there will be an additional 15 million gender-based violence cases.
Agriculture & Gender
For those in international development fields, we know that when men and women of all ages and ethnicities equally take part in a society, it strengthens the whole.
Amid COVID-19, all sectors need to prioritize three key components of promoting gender equality in their work: learning and listening to what the local situation is, integrating and adapting solutions into a project, and finding avenues to distribute the challenges, learnings and successes.
Kari Oynancha is the chief of party for the USAID Cooperative Development Activity 4 (CD4) implemented by Land O’Lakes Venture37, which aims to advance cooperatives’ capacity and enabling environments across Rwanda and Malawi. Nic Dexter is the chief of party for the Feed the Future Resilient Agricultural Markets Activity in Mozambique (RAMA-BC), which boosts farmer agricultural activity through climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive interventions.
Though Kari and Nic work in different regions, both saw an opportunity from the onset of their projects (2018 and 2016, respectively) to boost gender equality, using agriculture interventions as a lever to mitigate gender-based violence. Both activities had gender components at the start but did not have gender-based violence as a component – yet it’s become foundational for both CD4 and RAMA.
We’ve compiled high-level learnings from each of these activities that can be applied to projects, even if a project is not specifically gender or gender-based violence focused.
Disregard assumption – learn locally
Perform a gender-based assessment that understands the root of gender inequaity issues in the communities you are working in and how those issues affect communities, value chains and livelihoods.
“At the start, we were going to integrate some basic gender trainings into our cooperative curriculum. But once we understood the gender inclusion challenges, we knew that wasn’t enough,” says Kari. “If we want strong, functioning agriculture systems, we needed to address what was happening with more than one-off trainings.”
Ask the difficult questions:
“I remember when we started approaching gender, it was a question of 'How many women are participating?' or 'How many women are leaders?’” says Nic. “But to take another step and look at the root causes, to make it an integral part of every project is important. Doesn't matter if it's agriculture or livestock or market systems project, it has to be there.”
Gender-based violence is a systemic issue – and an issue for agriculture
Take the data and use it – make strategic plans for adaptation based on the findings:
The data revealed that the threat of GBV limited women’s interest and ability to actively participate in cooperative membership and leadership, limited their ability to make decisions (particularly around household finances), and drastically limited their access to cooperative resources and services including agricultural inputs and training.
“At the start, we were going to integrate some basic gender training into our cooperative curriculum. But once we understood the gender inclusion challenges, we knew that wasn’t enough,” says Kari. “If we want strong, functioning agriculture systems, we need to address what is happening with more than one-off trainings.”
Beyond basic gender training, CD4 implemented training on gender dynamics and GBV, created safe spaces for women to mentor each other and established gender champions (men and women of renown in their communities) who could advocate for women’s inclusion in decision-making and leadership.
Continue the work throughout the lifecycle of the project – not as an assessment or learning but continuous action. For examplen Mozambique, a high percentage of rural families and women listen to the radio regularly. The RAMA-BC team saw an opportunity to educate rural communities about the dangers of gender-based violence through recording and broadcasting survivor’s testimonies. It took time to find a few women willing to share their stories, but the work has raised the profile of GBV, resulting in conversations in communities and households where gender-based violence was previously accepted as part of life.
COVID-19 implications: Share challenges, efforts, successes
Even though life is different under COVID-19, the radios are still playing. The training for cooperative leaders is happening remotely. Gender-based violence has not stopped either. There’s more to be done and new ways that we will all once again have to pause, learn and adapt quickly.
Thanks to the flexibility, support and efforts of the USAID Mozambique and the Office of Local Sustainability, both RAMA and CD4 had the freedom to integrate gender-based violence into project design. And believe that these changes have improved their overall impact.
Though exacerbated under COVID-19, gender-based violence is always of the utmost importance, and we look to others in the international development community to share their stories of gender equality work and to collaborate to mitigate gender-based violence across sectors.
Please follow along with the next two blogs in this series, which will explore the specific gender-based violence mitigation work in Rwanda and Mozambique.