Webinar: How to integrate gender equity strategies into horticulture value chains


This Horticulture Innovation Lab webinar introduces key definitions of gender equity and strategies for implementing gender equity approaches into projects. Topics include integrating gender into research, sensitizing staff, developing an actionable gender strategy and designing activities that address women's needs. This was the ninth webinar in the Horticulture for Development Professional Series, held live on September 19, 2019.

Sarah Sahlaney, of ACDI/VOCA, was the presenter of this webinar. As a director for social and behavior change and gender, she works on projects in West Africa, East Africa, and South Asia and holds master's degrees in International Agricultural Development and in Community and Regional Development from UC Davis.

This summary includes the recorded webinar video presentation, the presenter's slides, and additional resources referenced in the presentation.

Key definitions and frameworks for gender integration

In order to effectively integrate gender equity into projects, it is important to develop a foundation of key vocabulary that are commonly used. Sahlaney referenced the following three definitions that help to build a solid understanding of the way we think about gender equity:

  • Sex: The biological characteristics that define humans as female or male.
  • Gender: Economic, political, and cultural attributes and opportunities associated with being male or female. The social definitions of what it means to be male or female vary among cultures and can change over time. Gender refers to the array of socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis. Gender is an acquired identity that is learned, changes over time, and varies widely within and across cultures. Gender is relational and refers not simply to women or men, but to the relationships between them.
  • Gender integration: The process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies, or programs in any area and at all levels. It refers to strategies for making women's as well as men's concerns and experiences an integral dimension in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and social spheres — such that inequality between men and women is not perpetuated.

A key distinction among these definitions is that gender roles, norms and constraints can be changed. These roles are not fixed and can change based on the situation or circumstance. Working in horticulture can change these roles for better or worse and it is important to understand that gender is fluid to better help develop projects that can support roles for women.

Women's empowerment in international development

Women's empowerment is a critical aspect of gender integration in horticulture as women make up a large percentage of farmers and are a key linkage to household nutrition. One framework that is used in agriculture is the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI). This framework incorporates five domains that help projects focus on certain areas to promote women's empowerment. These five domains include:

  • Decision-making power over agricultural production
  • Access to and ownership over resources
  • Sole or joint control over income and expenditures
  • Leadership
  • Time allocation

Gender lessons learned and equity strategies for implementation

Integrating gender into research is a critical step to ensuring that research has been appropriately designed for the communities it is being conducted in. Whether gender is the focus of the research or not, gender should be considered throughout research to understand roles, constraints and opportunities for inclusion and empowerment. Conducting a gender analysis can be one strategy for better understanding roles and constraints. When data is being collected, ensuring that samples are being collected not only from female-headed households, but also from women in male-headed households. 

When working with staff members, it is important to consider their knowledge and understanding of gender dynamics. Sensitizing staff members can be a positive step towards including gender into projects and ensuring staff can support the inclusion of gender-balanced approaches when planning activities. Considering diversity during hiring can also help establish teams with multiple perspectives and help to promote gender integration through women staff members in technical and leadership roles. This can help to better identify gender issues and target strategies to improve them. 

Developing a gender strategy is another approach to sharing a vision throughout the implementing team and taking steps to promote gender integration. A gender strategy may not cover all areas, but will focus on key issues, help to identify staff and assign responsibilities for supporting them, as well as help to incorporate actionable steps into individual workplans. Gender equity strategies should be developed as a result of initial gender analysis and can prove beneficial to guide project staff to improve gender inclusion. 

Other strategies for gender integration in horticulture include developing a deeper understanding of gender roles and more profitable opportunities for women. In horticulture, these roles often consist of marketing, service provision, or agricultural extension.

Additional resources may be needed to help women move into these roles which organizations can partner in to support their development. Providing equal resources to different groups may not be sufficient or effective. Sahlaney discussed that some individuals may be behind and need more assistance. Equitable approaches should provide resources based on what each individual needs as opposed to providing the same level of support to individuals at various levels of need, which can limit one's ability to move ahead. 

Value Chain

Gender considerations