Gender-Based Violence Strategies in Rural Mozambique Farming Communities
This is the third in a series of articles about the lessons learned of how to combat gender-based violence through agricultural programming. To see the first two blogs in this series, please click here and here.
The Feed the Future Resilient Agricultural Market Activities – Beira Corridor (RAMA-BC) project is, first and foremost, a climate-smart agriculture activity. The five-year project is working to support local producers to increase productivity, yields, and resilience.
Resilience is a key process for a country recently hit with two of the most devastating cyclones in its history (Idai and Kenneth). Crises have a way of exacerbating systemic issues — from economic inequality to gender-based and domestic violence. After Cyclone Idai, this was true, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the same pattern is emerging.
That’s why RAMA-BC saw that they had to do something within their project to help mitigate gender-based violence. It was prevalent in the communities they worked in, and whether they addressed it or not, the subjugation of women has a detrimental effect on the communities themselves — lower participation of women in project activities, fewer women in leadership roles, and toxic environments.
“Gender-based violence, or GBV, is a big problem in Mozambique. Women are often labor producers; they produce the crops but don’t have a say in what crops to grow or what to sell. We started by doing a gender module on linking nutrition to gender so people could start to understand. But talking about gender isn’t enough; we needed to make more of a change,” says Nic Dexter, Chief-of-Party for the RAMA-BC program.
GBV is a symptom of inequality and its violent expression. Addressing GBV is a way to focus attention on inequality, as women’s participation in projects is not enough by itself, given that GBV is hidden from view.
“At the beginning of the project, we didn't have interventions about GBV in the work plan at all. They were put in was because this abuse has such an impact on suppressing the initiatives that we are doing in agriculture,” says Nic.
Finding intersections of agriculture and GBV
Since 2017, one major component of the RAMA-BC program has been to utilize radio programming in the Beira Corridor to raise awareness of climate-smart agriculture practices, how to use push crops to mitigate Fall Armyworm, and how to improve harvesting. These are broadcast to about 200,000 people each week.
Through this platform, RAMA-BC has recorded testimonies of female survivors of GBV for broadcast in Portuguese and local languages on community radio stations. Testimonies encourage women that they are not alone, provoke discussion within households, and raise the profile of a taboo subject.
Through the platform of RAMA-BC-supported savings groups in Manica and Sofala provinces, gender and nutrition activists and drama groups have been able to train and engage community groups on how to better understand gender equality.
Integrating gender-based violence mitigation into a program that was not originally set to directly combat this systemic issue may seem like a daunting task, but the RAMA-BC team has learned from the process. Here are a few insights gained:
- Build the strategy into what you’re already doing. Savings groups, drama skits, radio programs, and day-to-day interaction with farmers are all opportunities to integrate gender equality learnings and trainings.
- Listen to the data. The first RAMA-BC gender assessment was based on women’s decision-making power. At the midterm, there was another done, and the continuum of women’s decision-making hadn’t changed even though their activity in the project had increased. That was a sign that something more needed to be done to break the cycle.
- Keep measuring — quantitatively and qualitatively. Women’s decision-making and empowerment, and the mitigation of gender-based violence, is not easy to measure. But the project is beginning to see women enter leadership roles and business roles, especially among the savings groups they are working with.
- Get staff on board. Even though there’s one gender specialist on the RAMA-BC staff, Nic has learned the importance of having the entire team understand and advocate for gender equality. “One person isn’t capable of doing everything — we’re raising awareness among staff about why we’re doing this work, its importance to their roles on the project,” says Nic.
With adaptations to address GBV in place before COVID-19, the work of RAMA-BC has continued. Change is relentless. The radio stations, in addition to discussions around climate-smart agriculture and gender-based violence, are also now spreading knowledge of WASH and proper hand-washing procedures.
“When you want to bring about real change, you have to take some risks and adapt,” says Nic.