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What will it take to deliver a gender transformative approach?

In a previous Expiscor blog post WorldFish Director General Stephen Hall laid out the rationale for adopting a gender transformative approach that goes beyond just considering the symptoms of gender disparity, and addresses the social norms and attitudes that lie behind them. The CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems has placed a transformative approach at the heart of its gender strategy. But how can this be turned into a reality?
 
To help find a way forward, the Program is holding a workshop in Penang, Malaysia, this week. The Building Coalitions, Creating Change workshop  is an opportunity for researchers, practitioners and donors in this area to exchange views and experiences on gender transformative research.
 
On the first morning, we looked back over four decades of gender development research. Although there have been some successes, change has not been as deep, widespread or sustained as we would want. Reflecting on the reasons for this, we identified several bottlenecks and barriers.
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Gender research for development has lacked a strong and coherent narrative with which to influence decision-makers and attract funding.
  • Social scientists working in the CGIAR have lacked status, compared to their natural science counterparts.
  • Gender research in agricultural development has mainly been tied to the pipeline research model, and this has proved a bad fit.
  • There has been a failure to invest in the organizational culture change that is needed to address gender effectively.
 
Identifying the factors that have slowed past progress was an important first step in understanding what we need to do differently from now on. For example, how can we create and maintain a compelling narrative? Who within our organizations needs to be convinced about the gender transformative approach, and how deeply do they need to engage with it?
 
The workshop was also informed by examples of success. Several participants shared interventions that have successfully delivered changes in attitudes and behavior on gender-based issues. Consultant Augustine Kimonyo of Rwanda and Fred Kinto of the Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University, Uganda have both been working on projects addressing gender-based violence in Africa. Diane Lindsay described a range of successful interventions, including a CARE project in Sierra Leone on adolescent reproductive health. They all stressed the importance of developing real buy-in from your own staff first, the need to engage with both men and women, and the relatively intensive effort required to achieve change. They also shared their concerns on scaling up and sustaining such success.
 
By sharing both our successes and our frustrations, we are now positioned for the workshop’s next stage. This will consider in detail what is needed to effectively pursue a gender transformative approach. We will report our findings back to you in this blog next week.
 
Photo: Mekong River, Vietnam, photo by Eric Baran, 2005