Gender and Water Alliance

GWA collaborates on Evaluation of FAO’s role and work related to Gender and Development

The Gender and Water Alliance has collaborated with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on an evaluation of FAO’s role and work in Gender and Development. Because of its extensive expertise in gender and agricultural sectors and its wide member network, the GWA secretariat was asked to provide advisory services on gender equality. Furthermore GWA was asked to help identifying, and eventually contract four out of eight consultants for the evaluation team, including the team leader. For GWA it was a great opportunity to examine a large UN organization and to assess whether it has actually implemented its stated gender policy and mandate.

The evaluation examined the evolution of the role and work of FAO in gender and development from 2002 to 2010; including the gender-related work in the forestry, fisheries and livestock sectors and provided regional overviews for Africa, Asia and the Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean. Even though gender is supposed to be cross-cutting and to be incorporated throughout the work of FAO, much of the implementation of gender mainstreaming has been left to the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division (ESW). Also the specific responsibilities of ESW for mainstreaming gender in its work related to HIV and AIDS were included in the evaluation.

The evaluation entailed the following activities:

  • Visits to Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Congo (Republic), Dominican Republic, Ghana, Kenya, Nicaragua, Niger, Panama, Philippines, Somaliland, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda and Zambia to assess over 150 projects;
  • Assessment of about 250 of FAO’s publications
  • Desk study of 200 projects that FAO staff had assessed as not “gender and development” related

On the basis of these assessments 17 recommendations were formulated based on the evidence illustrated throughout the report. The evaluation report is available at the FAO website, and can be accessed by clicking the following link "Evaluation of FAO’s role and work related to Gender and Development".

GWA’s contribution

GWA played a major part in this evaluation and its contribution to the exercise was valuable and important for its success. First, GWA completed the task of the desk study which was critical to the evidence and analysis of the extent to which FAO had incorporated gender concerns into its projects.

Second, GWA managed to provide the following team members:

  • Team leader
  • Africa region and HIV and AIDS expert
  • Latin America and Caribbean Region expert
  • Gender and Agriculture expert

The regional experts contributed unique insights and knowledge of their own regions to the analysis as well as their knowledge of gender issues. All had a strong commitment to the topic of gender equality and were able to conduct their research with that ultimate goal in mind. Additionally the team leader brought her experience of the UN system to the exercise.

The expert on Asia and water and gender is also a long-standing GWA member, although FAO contracted her directly.

Experiences from the field

During the field visits the GWA members got the opportunity to visit many areas crucial to women and agriculture. What was really impressive was the strength and resilience of the women who participated in the projects, particularly in the poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Niger and Uganda. Many of the gender-related components of FAO projects were targeted to women, rather than actually focusing on gender equality. For example, many of the emergency projects concentrated on supplying inputs to women who had been victims of disaster or conflicts. Thus, the projects provided them with livestock, such as chickens or goats, and agricultural inputs, such as vegetable seeds or fruit tree seedlings. Many of the women who had received these were proud of their accomplishments and had used the proceeds from selling their products for improving their homes or educating their children. However, the assistance was provided to women and men along existing gender divisions of labour, without empowering them in decision making or control over access to resources.

In some cases, women were empowered beyond improved incomes, particularly in very traditional societies. For example, the Evaluation visited FAO’s Belgian-funded ‘Dimitra’ project in Niger, which offered communication and capacity building for illiterate women to improve food and nutrition security. Dimitra works with Listeners’ Clubs in rural areas, providing them with solar wind-up radios and a mobile phone fitted with a solar charger. The clubs listen to programmes on agriculture, livestock, food and nutrition security, sanitation and child care. They used mobile phones to interact with and share experience with their fellows in other clubs. Facilitation is provided by the rural radio stations. The majority of beneficiaries were women who had never owned a radio, and they found the world opened up for them. Women gained in terms of increased self-confidence and self-respect and respect from their families and communities. Testimony was given on how the clubs helped several women to overcome gender-based violence at home.

Training of trainers

Realisatie door Four Digits op basis van Plone.