While women play a crucial role in agricultural transformation in developing countries, multiple hurdles limit their contributions to their households and communities. With an ever-growing commitment of development agencies working towards women empowerment, sharing field experiences can help identify effective methods that would prove helpful in designing actions to empower women.
The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) is an innovative tool that seeks to measure and identify obstacles to women empowerment. Besides, it can be used to track gender equality and women’s inclusion in the agricultural sector. This article is sharing an ongoing field experience from the Agriculture Technical Vocational Education and Training for Women (ATVET4W) project in Benin on how measuring women empowerment can help to take the right actions to address the factors that hinder women empowerment.
ATVET4W and the measurement of women empowerment
The ATVET4W project supports job and wealth creation via skills development. The goal of the project is the socio-economic empowerment of women through gender transformative approaches. The partner countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, and Togo where the project implements gender-sensitive and on-the-job training in selected agricultural value chains. This is done in close collaboration with national partners from the public and private sectors. In Bénin, the value chains identified with the greatest potential to benefit women are the processing of rice, soy, chicken, and compost production.
In 2019, ATVET4W supported the measurement of women empowerment using the project-level empowerment in the agriculture index in Benin and Malawi as the two pilot countries. This was made possible by a solid collaboration of AUDA-NEPAD and IFPRI. The objective of the study is to assess value chains and the outcomes of the empowerment program. The project-level empowerment in agriculture index includes 11 indicators measured across three domains of empowerment.
The findings revealed that only 33% of women achieved empowerment compared to 59% of men. Another interesting component of the project-level empowerment in agriculture index is that it shows the absolute contributions of each of the 11 indicators to disempowerment. The leading contributors to disempowerment for women are work balance, membership in influential groups, access to and decisions on credit, and autonomy in income.
Fostering mechanization solutions for women in agriculture
Reflecting on the findings of the study in Bénin and how the disempowerment factors can be effectively and adequately addressed, the existing initiative Going green was redesigned to address two disempowerment factors, namely work balance and membership in influential groups.
The initiative provided training activities that covered all segments of the compost production value chain. Regarding the increasing demand for compost to produce vegetables, the ATVET4W teamed up with the GIZ Green Innovation Centers to address work balance through mechanization to ease the workloads and membership in influential groups through marketing, leadership, and managerial training.
This initiative aligns with the recommendation of IFPRI to provide inputs either in-kind or cash, such as assets or equipment, start-up materials, and develop links to markets.
Mechanization would reduce the unbalanced workload identified as a key factor of disempowerment of women. Materials including a mixer, a wheelbarrow, a tricycle, a sewing machine, a weighing machine, a thermometer for heating control, a watering system, an electric generator, a crusher, a sieve, a louder which essential materials for compost production were purchased and given to women. To ensure the sustainability of the materials, women have been trained on their use and maintenance. This will ease the labour, reduce the time spent on the production site and improve productivity.
Marketing, managerial and leadership skills training as well as gender-sensitive business approaches training are helping women in the group understand how they can make the most of teamwork. Awareness is raised not only in income-generating activities they perform together but also regarding their social empowerment because henceforth, they can emerge as role models to disseminate gender-transformative messages in their community.
Sustainability being at the core of ATVET4W interventions in Bénin, the first responsible for all activities regarding the provision of mechanization is the women themselves through the organization they belong to The National Association of Agricultural Women Entrepreneurs of Benin (ANaFEA-Benin).
Aiming for gender-transformative change
The project-level empowerment in agriculture index helped to identify mechanization as an adequate solution to reduce the workload of women involved in compost production. To date, up to 150 women have been trained on the business model of compost production and this will directly affect 1,500 small and medium enterprises in organic farming. These women now have a better and more holistic picture of the business they are involved in and they know which factors they should consider in the decision-making process. The equipment provided to women will not only ease the production process but also cover the increasing demand for compost in Benin’s organic farming. The time gained can be allocated to other areas of interest, thanks to the use of appropriate equipment.
Ronald Kouago, Junior Technical Advisor, ATVET4W Benin, firstname.lastname@example.org
WEAI Resource Center