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Gender transformative research: transforming ourselves first

Last week, the Building Coalitions, Creating Change workshop brought together donors, researchers and practitioners on gender and development to discuss a gender transformative approach to agricultural research in development (a recent Expiscor blog post explains this idea in more detail). The workshop was a major step forward, with participants giving us the benefit of their considerable knowledge, experience and energy. With their help, we have really started to get to grips with putting this concept into practice.
One of the first lessons to emerge is that WorldFish needs organizational changes if we want to effectively adopt this new way of thinking and working. As one of our participants put it, “if you want to adopt a gender transformative approach, the first thing you need to transform is yourself”.
We need to start by making a strong case to our own colleagues, to build their commitment and understanding. A clear explanation is needed of the vision behind the gender transformational approach and how it contributes to our institutional and program goals.  Case studies and other evidence should be used to demonstrate that this approach can help ensure our research has a lasting impact. A theory of change must be developed, one that plots the steps we will take along the way to achieve this.
A capacity-building plan will equip staff with the awareness, capability and skills to drive this agenda forward. We don’t all have to become gender specialists, but we need to be aware of what is required of each of us, and be able to access the relevant expertise as needed. By deciding who needs to do what, we can also develop accountability for delivering gender transformation. This accountability could be encouraged via performance assessments (although we want the main driver for involvement to be a heartfelt belief in the value of this approach).
WorldFish needs to form a new set of strategic partnerships and collaborations with others from the agricultural sector and beyond. The transformational approach to gender inequality is a new concept for us, but others – particularly in the health sector – have been working with it for some time. We have a lot to learn from them. We would not expect to change norms and attitudes alone, but work with other organizations active in this area. Some of these new partnerships and coalitions began to form at the workshop.
Steve Hall, the director general of WorldFish, and Patrick Dugan, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems, were keen workshop participants. Their leadership will be vital to build support for the gender transformative approach and align key institutional processes behind it.
This workshop was a significant milestone for us. It has informed our thinking, defined our next steps and kick-started a continuing dialogue on the issue. The workshop report will be available on our website next month.
Photo by Jeevan Marimothoo