Gender equality is a fundamental human right, a building block for social justice and an economic necessity. Yet in rural areas of developing countries, gender inequalities are all too prevalent. Women and girls experience discrimination and limited access in all areas of life. Discriminatory laws, social norms and customary practices create disadvantages for women farmers, specifically in the form of limited land rights, lack of access to productive resources, unpaid work, insecure employment and exclusion from decision making and political representation. In many cases, this has a detrimental effect on their and their families’ food security and nutrition.
To realize substantial progress towards gender equality, the United Nations Rome-based Agencies have committed to adopt innovative, gender transformative approaches that actively examine, challenge and change the underlying causes of gender inequality. It is within this context that PROCASUR and the IFAD Gender Team under the Joint Programme on Gender Transformative Approaches for Food Security and Nutrition (JP GTA), implemented by FAO, IFAD and WFP in collaboration with and through financial support from the European Union (EU), have partnered together to organize this Learning Route that took place in Blantyre, Malawi between the 29th of May and the 3rd of June 2023.
A Learning Route is a journey towards new knowledge, successful and revealing experiences, fresh ideas and innovative solutions. Built up as planned journey with specific learning objectives, it encourages an active and mutual knowledge exchange between participants and their hosts in a continuous process of learning in the field, seeking to expand and diversify rural technical advisory services, including and valuing the best experiences and knowledge of organizations. This Learning Route gathered twenty-three gender specialists and project technical teams from 13 different countries (CAR, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia and Uganda), representing 12 IFAD funded projects as well as FAO and WFP’s Malawi country offices.
This diversity of key stakeholders came together in Malawi during 6 days to develop an understanding about gender transformative approaches (GTAs) and how they differ from other frameworks and approaches. Also, to learn how rural development interventions can integrate those approaches in their operations and at the different stages of the programme cycle analyzing pathways of change, related results and impacts.
The journey in the field started with the first visit to Matoponi community in Zomba district. In this exchange visit lead by the Programme for Rural Irrigation Development -PRIDE- we learned how the Household Approach works at field level meeting trained Households who provide mentoring to other peers on gender issues. The use of the Household approach is bringing changes in the lives of the families, since they are now able to make a better use of their resources and plan for their future thanks to the use and application of the vision journey and others Gender Actions Learning System tool. In Matoponi, the participants also assisted to a performance of the Theatre for Development composed by a youth group of the community. This approach – which build upon the theatre of the oppressed methodology – showed us how powerful is the Theatre for Development as a tool to raise gender concerns within members of the community and promote behavioral changes for a more equitable gender society. Finally, the field visit exchange with the PRIDE team concluded in Mlooka community, where the group of participants could exchange and learn from community members about how to apply the gender dialogue sessions methodology to collectively discuss gender issues at community level and improve the decision making on critical aspects for the community and the households.
Participants have finally exchanged with Nchema community members on Gender Transformative Approaches as those were introduced in Ultra Poor Graduation component of Financial Access for Rural Markets Smallholders and Enterprises -FARMSE- project. Two Gender Action Learning System tools have been introduced in the mentoring scheme, and mainly the Balance tree and the visioning tools; those tools improve the decision – making, promote a better planning of resources and investment at Household level. Participants could exchange with mentors and Households asking questions about how their lives have improved thanks to the use of those tools. A final day in Blantyre allowed for exchanges with Financial Action Learning for Sustainability -FALs- and CARE with CONCERN on complementary Gender Transformative Approaches adopted by IFAD partners.
On the last day of the Learning Route, participants could improve the elaboration of their Innovation Plans aimed at promoting replication and scaling up of gender transformative tools in their projects and programmes by adopting the knowledge and practical skills acquired during the Learning Route. The design and implementation of innovation plans will become part of participants’ future assignment in their respective projects and organizations.