Feminization of technology should lead to welfare rather than profit
Dr Pande making a presentation during the Gender Forum meeting.

“Technology and Gender Disparities” was the theme of the Gender Forum meeting held at Patancheru on 28 August 2014.  This time, a diverse approach was used to stimulate discussions on gender and agriculture. Gender champion Dr Rekha Pande, Professor and Head, Department of History, Joint Faculty, Centre for Women’s Studies, School of Social Sciences, University of Hyderabad who was the speaker at this event, adopted a feminist theory/style of discussion to reveal to researchers how feminist theory can also be used to inform agricultural research for development, given its similarities to gender research. Evidence from literature illustrates that feminist theorizing is a broader strategy of diversity mainstreaming which can more efficiently capture, articulate and reveal the relationship between simultaneously interlocking forms of dominations that include but are not limited to gender.

Dr Cynthia Bantilan, Research Program Director for Markets, Institutions and Policy (MIP) welcomed the live and virtual participants (from ICRISAT’s Nairobi, Niger and Bamako centers). Dr R Padmaja, Scientist (Gender Research) elaborated on the Forum’s three Ws---‘What works, Why it works and Why it doesn’t’, and added that, “The focus from mainstreaming gender to integration of gender in all research activities enables us to move towards bringing about a transformational change and identify barriers and constraints which women face and how technology (in particular ICT) can empower men and women.” 

Dr Pande, who champions the cause of gender in education, technology and the rights for women and children, spoke on  understanding the concept of technology and gender disparity; examining the two views of technology; current scenario of technology and gender disparity; and also focused on  information technology, agriculture, dairying, with examples and views from India.

She stressed that technology was not gender neutral and the need to break gender stereotyping. “The question remains as to what extent new technologies have improved women’s lives, lessened their work load, increased employment opportunities or enhanced their authority,” she said, reiterating that feminization of technology should lead to welfare rather than profit. She underlined the need to create programs that would encourage women to acquire more skills, rework the curriculum (from an educationist’s point of view) and combat stereotypes.

Dr Rekha Pande sharing her take on “Technology and Gender Disparities”

 Her remarks were followed by a lively question and answer session from the audience. The forum ended on an encouraging note with Dr Pande stressing on IT as an enabling factor in mobilizing group opinion (like Facebook) and changes occurring in the technological field in which women are getting involved and the need to build on them.

 The key takeaways from the discussion were as follows:

  • A feminist viewpoint can enhance the effectiveness and equity of interventions (including ICT)  meant to empower smallholder women and men
  • It can enhance the local understanding of empowerment and what it means to rural women and men
  • Given the constraints/barriers women face in rural/urban areas and that these will take time to be eradicated, it is important to widen the choices available to them within a given system(s)
  • This variety of choices provides access to new technology, knowledge or information which leads to self-actualization by women and men. The key lies in understanding how the constraints they face can be removed and identify alternate pathways to empower women.

Among the other participants in the forum were Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General (Research),  Dileep Kumar Guntuku (Principal Scientist/Global Leader-Knowledge Sharing and Innovation), Mr Pradyut Modi, Mr Amit Chakravarthy, Ms Julie M I Hofer (Patancheru), Dr George Okwach, Dr HFW Rattunde (Bamako), and Ms Esther Njuguna (Nairobi).


by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.