A “win-win” for women’s empowerment, gender equality, food security, and economic well-being in Burundi
This post was written by Domitille Ntacobakinvuna, Abinet Tasew, and Maureen Miruka, with CARE.
Does “light-touch” gender mainstreaming help decrease gender-based violence in agriculture programming, or do we need a more transformative approach? This is the question at the heart of a study CARE is conducting in six communities of Burundi’s Kirundo and Gitega provinces. CARE’s hypothesis is that a more intensive and transformative approach to gender can create a “win-win” for gender justice and for improvements in agriculture productivity, income, and food security, compared with approaches addressing women’s economic empowerment and unequal access to material resources with minimal gender-awareness messaging.
What we learned was that an integrated gender-transformative model has immense potential for sustainable solutions to women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Testing two approaches
Through the Twuzuzanye, or A Win-Win for Gender, Agriculture and Nutrition: Testing a Gender-Transformative Approach from Asia in Africa, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CARE is conducting a two-arm study to compare the differential impacts of two models to accelerate lasting transformations in gender equality, food security, and economic well-being.
The study is testing two key approaches: (1) a gender-transformative model, Empowerment through Knowledge And Transformative Action, or “EKATA”; and (2) a gender-mainstreamed (“Gender-Light”) approach that is more typical in the agriculture sector, which adds basic gender integration activities to a program focused on women’s empowerment or microenterprise development.
The Win-Win project adapted Empowerment, Knowledge and Transformative Action (EKATA) (originally developed in Bangladesh) by integrating a male-engagement approach, Abatangamuco, which translates to “those who shine light.” EKATA is a culturally responsive method of raising consciousness and challenging discriminatory beliefs and social norms through a cycle of reflection, community dialogue, and collective action. Abatangamuco brings together male change agents to travel throughout their communities, sharing personal stories of positive change and encouraging others to reflect on and question the beliefs and practices that prevent women’s empowerment, and consider a better way of life.
Together, this gender-transformative package focuses on developing critical reflection skills, analysis of power dynamics, and deeper engagement with male relatives of participating women, male community leaders, and the wider community on social norms in the context of group dialogue and the evolution of group solidarity. The project also works closely with the government to ensure the EKATA approach is scaled and sustained.
In comparison, the Gender-Light Model integrates key gender messages and pre-defined discussion topics alongside the program of livelihood skills sessions. At the end of the data collection phase, the Gender-Light and control treatment groups will receive training in the gender-transformative package, in line with the “do no harm” principle.
Noting the potential risk of increased gender-based violence in the control areas, where interventions are “gender blind” (and do not account for or address gender dynamics), and in the Gender-Light areas, the team conducted a rapid assessment. The assessment documented extraordinarily high levels of violence in the Gender-Light and control areas, which did not substantially differ from EKATA areas.
Qualitative data from the assessment found rampant, diverse, and extreme violence in four categories: physical violence (very common and usually unreported); economic violence (crop theft, mainly by husbands); sexual violence (marital rape and physical violence for withholding sex); and emotional violence (infidelity and men’s spending family resources on mistresses, making women feel disrespected and subordinated).
Responding to pervasive gender-based violence
CARE and its partners in Burundi used two approaches — the public and the personal — working through components that draw on CARE’s Gender Equality Framework and GBV Strategy to add Abatangamuco principles to EKATA and address gender-based violence in the gender-transformative treatment areas.
The public approach involves visiting communities to schedule open meetings, under the auspices of local authorities or religious entities. Members of the Abatangamuco give their testimonies to the audience, focusing on how their lives have changed for the better since they made the initial changes to themselves, their values, and their behavior. These testimonies can also include direct advice and arguments for why the Abatangamuco approach is a good way to live, morally and pragmatically. In addition to the testimonies, which form the backbone of the activities, they present their messages through entertainment, such as traditional dancing and theater. They particularly target wedding parties with their sketches, attempting to reach young newlyweds who are about to establish families.
The personal approach is much less formal. When an umatangamuco (a man who is a member of Abatangamuco) becomes aware of a family where a woman is being mistreated or where there are significant problems regarding the division of labor and the interpersonal relationship between the husband and the wife, he may attempt to advise the man directly. Usually, this involves a small group of Abatangamuco men from the community visiting the man’s home, trying to reason with him, tell him their stories, and advise him to change his behavior for his own sake, as well as the sake of his wife and family.
What we learned
A qualitative study CARE conducted in 2018 found that women in EKATA groups were less likely to experience violence. There were also differences in how women said they would report violence if it occurred. In the control group, half the women said they would report violence to the chief, while half said they would tolerate it because they did not know what else to do.
In the Gender-Light group, some women felt they did not have options for reporting, while others felt it was not right to share such information with others. All the women in the EKATA group indicated they would report the matter to someone — community leaders, the police, women’s rights organizations, or the Abatangamuco.
CARE is committed to integrating gender in all its programs. To learn more about CARE’s integrated model, please see She Feeds the World: CARE’s Programmatic Framework for Food and Nutrition Security.
CARE International in Burundi (2018). Qualitative assessment of the effectiveness of a gender transformative programming on changing gender and social norms and women’s empowerment. (Unpublished)