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Women are estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to produce over 50% of the world’s food and up to 80% in developing countries. They are also leaders, breadwinners, and role models. Putting women at the forefront of our work, IIRR promotes gender equality in the most marginalized communities across the globe. This work involves community intervention programs, research, and publications. 

We recognize the vital role of women in eradicating poverty and achieving equity, but also acknowledge that these roles are generally undervalued and constrained by limitations on access to resources, services, and labor market opportunities. 

Addressing Women’s Empowerment through community food production

In the Philippines, IIRR’s community interventions are making an impact in building women’s empowerment. One example of how this is done is the project Maximizing Nutrition-Sensitive Crop Museum towards a Disaster-Resilient and Healthy Community which is made possible by the Direct Assistance Program (DAP) of the Australian Embassy in the Philippines.  This partnership project between IIRR and DAP is in collaboration with the Municipal Local Government Unit (MLGU) of Guinayangan, Quezon.

The project, which is ending in July, has established a community Crop Museum (CM), serving as a supplementary, community emergency, and disaster response facility for food security and nutrition. Home gardening kits were also distributed to 220 families from nutritionally-vulnerable and marginalized households – specifically for women’s economic empowerment through food production. Different kinds of vegetable seeds, tools, seedling trays, plastic bags for potting, sprinklers, and guidance were given. Access to accurate information on COVID-19 safety and vaccines, nutrition, and home food production techniques were also provided through Information, Education, and Communications (IEC) materials both directly to the families and in collaboration with the Municipal Health Office (MHO).

Economically Empowering Women in Agriculture in South Sudan

IIRR South Sudan, in partnership with African Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF), will officially launch Investing in Women in South Sudan (IIW-SS) program in Juba on 9th June 2022. IIW-SS is 5-year gender equality and economic inclusion program funded by Global Affairs Canada (GAC)  and implemented in East Equatoria and the Central Equatoria States. It aims to economically empower women in the Agriculture sector through increasing incomes, reducing climate risk, and transforming livelihoods by focusing on selected value chains – honey, sorghum, sesame, shea nut, and groundnuts. 

Its specific goals are: (i) to reduce gender-specific barriers to women’s participation in agricultural value chains and (ii) to increase the adoption of gender-sensitive climate smart agricultural practices (iii) to improve employment and livelihoods for women in agriculture and food systems. 

The expected direct beneficiaries are 6,000 smallholder farmer households (about 36,000 people) of which 80% are women. IIRR will be providing technical support in areas including climate-smart agriculture, gender, and human rights advocacy, early warning and response systems, post-harvest handling, and marketing. 

Tackling Gender Equality and Inclusion through Research

Women predominate as unpaid family workers whose work is often undervalued, and their economic contributions in the agricultural sector have largely remained invisible. Within the IDRC-funded regional research project on Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs), IIRR completed and published a study focusing on CSV, looking at how and to what extent the promotion and practice of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) options lead to women’s economic empowerment. A quantitative-qualitative study was conducted in Cambodia, Myanmar, and the Philippines using the Abbreviated Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (which measures decision-making over production, access and control over resources, use of income, leadership, and time use) citing how the promotion of climate-smart agriculture is contributing to women’s empowerment within the CSVs in these three countries. 

The study provided clear evidence of the empowering experiences of women in the six climate-smart villages and found that the “adoption of CSA practices has contributed to women’s economic empowerment” based on increased income, participation in household and production decision-making, and community involvement.  Recommendations that will further strengthen the empowerment of women include: (i) Provide assistance to improve adult literacy of women (ii) Increase gender awareness and provide gender sensitivity training for male leaders (iii) Ensure that community activities consider women’s time use and workload (iv) Scale-up access to markets and market information (v) Strengthen women’s savings associations (vi) Sustain the adoption of CSA options, and (vii) Increase women’s knowledge by providing more opportunities for participation.

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