Scientists urged to think of gender as ‘part of the system’ and as an ongoing social process


Getting a handle on gender issues during the proceedings of the 2nd Gender forum held in Bamako, Mali.

2nd Gender forum meeting
Scientists urged to think of gender as ‘part of the system’ and as an ongoing social process

The Second ICRISAT Gender forum got off to a start in ICRISAT- Mali on 26 June with scientists debating on the definition of gender -- whether they all shared the same definition or if they needed to, since gender research could mean sex disaggregated data; gender disaggregated data; identification and justification of a specific target group; gender analysis that focuses on power and difference; or research teams including women and men to reflect the targeted community’s composition. This led to the practical issue of “what goes in the gender column of our work plans?” and the reflection that each research project will have its own requirements.

The recently-launched forum is part of ICRISAT’s commitment towards integrating a gender transformative approach in agricultural research to lead to more effective development outcomes and impacts.  It seeks to focus on understanding how gendered power relations result in inclusion or exclusion and move from a ‘Women in Development’ approach to a “Gender and Development’ approach and finally to a transformative approach which involves refocussing on power relations that sustain inequity.

The discussions during the Forum centered around the likelihood of gender aspects being already included in ICRISAT’s research without being specifically defined as “gender responsive.” It was felt that an examination of current work to identify where such gender needs are already being addressed or may be driven by a gendered priority would call for thinking about who the work is for, who it will impact, and why. Thinking of gender as an ongoing social process was suggested as a strategy to overlay on to our research to identify how and where gender needs to be integrated or connected. This may mean thinking of “gender as part of the system” or of the web that our research is in and “learning to see it.”

The Forum also underlined the importance of being gender responsive, meaning going beyond having research protocols that integrate gender to incorporating gender savvy practices -- for instance doing research with teams of four assistants where teams included three men and one woman. However, research reveals that women are often given the responsibility of cooking for teams! This is a reminder that gender structures all that we do and the challenge lies in beginning to see it and identify it in order to work with it.

Since colleagues from Kenya, Niamey and Patancheru could not participate in the forum due to a technical snag in KSI connection, they sent their comments by email.  Edouard Roméo Mensah, Associate Professional Officer - Economics (Markets, Institutions and Policies),  suggested that making plans in advance to include a gender dimension into research would greatly help scientists think better about research aspects and questions that may include gender and the survey zones where they are likely to get gender-representative samples.

Tom Hash, Principal Scientist - Breeding (Dryland Cereals), opined that gender-disaggregated information on crop trait preferences, access to various resources including land, labor, various soil amendments and other inputs for crop production and utilization can help better target the needs of the farm communities.

Among the other activities suggested at the forum were the holding a regional workshop (1.5 days) following  the In-House Review in September on integrating gender into agricultural research; conducting monthly gender meetings on integrating gender into research, gender strategy, specific research projects to facilitate documentation of gender in our work; start a blog or web forum with questions being answered by gender experts; building gender capacity by adding staff (scientific officers) or sharing post-docs with expertise in gender; and ensuring that women are hired as technical staff and are given appropriate training.

The forum was hosted by ICRISAT-West and Central Africa in Mali, Bamako. The meeting was attended by 16 participants from ICRISAT-WCA - Wenda Bauchspies, Senior Scientist- Gender Research, CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals; Ramadjita Tabo, Director-West and Central Africa; Fred Rattunde, Eva Weltzien-Rattunde, Robert Zougmoré,  George Enoch Okwach; Moses Osiru, Sibiry Traore, Haile Desmae, Manda Sissoko, Fatimata Diarra, Madina Diancoumba, Birhanu Zemadim Birhanu, Agathe Diama, Gatien Falconnier and Therese Dembele.


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