Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Gender multi-tasking: Talking the talk and walking the walk

The internet is awash with statistics about the contribution of women and men to agriculture, the relative empowerment of different genders, and how bridging gaps of access to and control over pertinent resources will drastically improve development outcomes for all. But what do all these words and numbers mean? How can they be applied to agricultural research for development in low to middle income countries where smallholders dominate the agricultural sector?
In May this year, ACIAR turned 35. Looking back through the years, research funded by ACIAR has significantly improved agricultural practices and livelihoods in both Australia and our partner countries. But for many years the research has been largely gender-blind, limiting the potential of both participants and impacts. An increasing focus on gendered social relations within ACIAR and its commissioned research projects is a crucial step on the path to gender equity in the processes and outcomes of investments.  
One action on this path was to bring leading lights from Australia and New Zealand together at a workshop held at ACIAR, 30-31st May 2017. This group comprised academics, NGO partners, DFAT, and private consultants who are operationalising the latest thinking and gender theories relevant to international agricultural research for development.  
Gender experts from ACIAR workshop, May 31st 2017: Prof Barbara Pamphilon, Miriam McCormack, Joanne Choe, Assc. Prof Yvonne Underhill-Sem, Dr Jayne Curnow, Dr Lauren Rickards, Siwan Lovett, Dr Evan Christen, Dr Jane Dyson, Prof Margaret Alston, Prof Sharon Bell, Dr Ann-Maree Nobelius, Prof Andrew Campbell, Sally Moyle, Dr Meryl Williams, Assc. Prof Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, and Dr Brian Cook. Photo credit: ACIAR.
Participants enthusiastically discussed the current and emerging research on:
  • integrating gender in agricultural research for development,
  • the gender questions not on the agenda, and
  • the future focus for gender theory and practice in agricultural research for development.

Reporting back from group discussions: Miriam McCormack, Dr Ann-Maree Nobelius, and Dr Meryl Williams. Photo credit: ACIAR.
It quickly became clear that the first step for ACIAR (or any institution, for that matter) becoming a research leader in gendered social relations was to recognise and address our own unconscious bias and potential stumbling blocks.
As this blog is being posted, Professor Sharon Bell is finalising the ACIAR Gender Strategy and Policy that will be implemented across the agency. By critically examining our own position and developing a strategy and policy to deliver a more equitable program both internally and externally, we will be better placed to pursue the agency’s core business.
To assist our partners, ACIAR’s inaugural Visiting Research Fellow, Dr Jo Caffrey (University of Canberra), is finalising guidelines for researchers on how to incorporate a gender focus into ACIAR research proposals to achieve gender equity.

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