How Can Gender Research and Evidence Influence Policies to Empower Women?
Every year on March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) including at my institute. This year’s theme, “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality” was very apt, since everything currently goes through a digital process. But, 37 percent of women do not use the Internet and 259 million fewer women have access to the Internet than men, even though they account for nearly half the world's population. This diminishes their opportunities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). By 2050, 75 percent of jobs will be related to STEM areas. Yet today, women hold just 22 percent of positions in artificial intelligence, to name just one. Such data or evidence convince the policy makers that something needs to be done to meet the challenges. So let’s ask what are we doing to fill the gaps? Are we gathering relevant data and generating enough evidences to make an impact and influence policies for empowering women? Here is my experience for you to consider.
I wrote about GATI (Gender Advancement for Transforming Institutions), the project I have been handling since 2021. On IWD this year, I spoke about the various activities we undertook during the year under the GATI pilot. The GATI project aspires to create an enabling environment for equal participation of women in science, technology, engineering, medicine and mathematics (STEMM) at all levels. GATI aims to bring about institutional reforms to attract, recruit, retain and promote women into scientific laboratories and institutions of higher education. We collected gender disaggregated data of scientists, students and other staff at our institute. Out of 212 scientists working at my institute, just 26 are women. Only 2 to 3 women have been holding higher positions, which could make impact and influence the policies. The data collected and evidence generated under GATI reflected that we need to do a lot more for gender equality and equity. Based on these data, we could develop action plans that will help transform our institute to be even more gender friendly.
The project GATI funded by Department of Science & Technology, Government of India together with British Council has been helpful in sensitizing scientists, administrative staff and students on issues associated with career advancement of women in scientific institutions. In the final phase of the GATI pilot, the Nodal Officers of about 20 research and academic institutions in India shall be visiting select institutions in the UK in the last week of March, 2023. This will enable us to see the progress these institutions have made in gender equality and equity fronts. These UK academic and research institutions have been accredited for gender equality as per the Athena Swan charter by AdvanceHE. The visit will facilitate implantation of evidence-based action plans developed by GATI institutions in India with the mentoring of accredited institutions in UK, resource persons from British Council and Department of Science & Technology, Government of India. The GATI Pilot is one great step forward by Indian government towards facilitating gender equality in Indian research and academic institutions.
What's Next for Us on Gender?
This March, we are wrapping up the GATI pilot with productive outcomes having far-reaching implications. But, this is not the end of the road, the work must go on since gender equality and women’s empowerment is no small task. We have now a fresh opportunity to work on harnessing gender and social equality for resilience in Agri-food Systems in collaboration with International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). I will be working with my team of scientists on Bundled Socio-technical Innovations (STIBs) for Agri-food Systems transformation towards women’s resilience and empowerment. The basic premise of this project is that significant numbers of technical innovations exist, but the uptake by women is low. The assumption is that the contextually relevant configurations of combinations of social and technical innovations can help overcome this challenge: a new idea with fresh perspectives for us.
It is envisaged to develop a Systematic Review (SR) of interventions under existing projects at our institute that have effectively targeted women farmers and positively impacted women Empowerment outcomes. We are expecting the outcome in terms of systematic review of gendered uptake of STIBs and evidence on challenges and opportunities. Also, we will be able to draw an evidence gap map on impacts of STIBs on women’s empowerment, resilience and other socioeconomic outcomes. Our work will also yield inventory of available gender and socioeconomic datasets, data and tools that facilitate bundling in different local and thematic contexts. On March 9, 2023, the IRRI scientist based in New Delhi had a partnership meeting with the IVRI team of scientists involved in this project. We all are excited that in coming months we are going to be engaged on review and inventory development of socio-economic quantitative and qualitative datasets on socioeconomic and gender dimensions including time use, access to skills, knowledge, social networks, control over resources, and decision-making.
We are excited to work on this new dimension HER+ under the overall guidance of IRRI gender research team. This is a CGIAR research initiative working to achieve climate resilience by strengthening gender equality and social inclusion across food systems in the Global South. The HER+ tackles the four main dimensions of gender inequality in Agri-food systems to build climate change resilience through research on Women’s agency with respect to:
► Their ability to define and act on goals, make decisions that matter to them, and participate in the economy and public life;
►Women’s lack of access to and control over resources;
►Social norms that discriminate based on gender; and
►Policies and governance that fail to include and benefit women.
Our research team, under the guidance of IRRI experts, will ensure proper understanding of the local contexts and problems upon which the STIBs are going to be implemented and adaptation following systemic approach. We will identify, engage, and share with multi-stakeholders at the relevant steps of the cycle. This will be done by allowing enough iteration and collaboration during ideation for greater flexibility and creativity. Identifying the target livelihood systems to be engaged in the process is also integral part of the project. Consulting the DEED Cycle Framework to understand the process of learning and application in the Learning Labs forms one essential part of this project. We will be scaling down cases (learning labs) to identify bundles using the relevant phases of the cycle, ensuring the inter-weaving nature of the gender-responsive DEED cycle and apply gender-transformative methods and tools for data collection, analysis, designing interventions, monitoring, and evaluation of STIBs for scaling and learning. The data and evidences so generated will help policy making bodies to design interventions appropriate to the given contexts to be effective and making positive impact. Many agricultural technologies fail to reach to the target segments of society, missing the intended impact. We believe, by following this approach, we will be able to identify and make intervention strategies which work best for women farmers in particular.
I thank Ranjitha Puskur, Prama Mukhopadhyay and Hom Gartaula from IRRI-India for this great partnership opportunity to work on gender research. We are confident and excited that this innovative research proves to be effective tool for rural women’s empowerment in India as elsewhere in global south.