by Patrick Bell
Tomorrow, March 8, we observe International Women’s Day (#IWD), an international holiday created to inspire women and celebrate achievements toward gender equality.
It just so happens that this year IWD coincides with the start of a very special initiative that Lutheran World Relief is undertaking toward the same goal. We are kicking off three special model projects as a part of a project we’re calling Learning for Gender Integration (LGI).
Through this program we hope to learn how to design and implement development projects that are fairer and stronger, that provide environments that lead to improved gender relations in the communities where we work. They are model projects because we will use what we learn through these three projects to help design our projects in the future.
Ensuring Equal Opportunities
The goal of gender integrated programming is to ensure that women and men enjoy equal opportunities to benefit from our projects, an approach which not only benefits individuals but also strengthens whole communities. Because gender inequality exists, we must take steps to ensure that women can benefit equally from our projects, and that all benefits don’t remain with men alone.
An example of this is when we offer trainings. It is normal for both men and women farmers to be invited to trainings, but usually more men show up and benefit from them than women. There can be many reasons for this, such as time constraints faced by women who have more domestic duties than men, or even cultural conceptions about women’s ability to learn new techniques. A gender-integrated approach to programming takes the time to identify these constraints and find ways of removing them so that, to use the example given, women have the same opportunity to attend the trainings as men.
The Positive Effects of Reducing the Gender Gap
Through the LGI initiative LWR is learning a gender-integrated approach to agriculture because such an approach represents good development, the best use of our resources (including gifts from people like you) and it’s the right thing to do. Many recent studies have shown that reducing the gender gap in agriculture:
- improves agricultural production in developing countries,
- reduces hunger (food insecurity), and
- even leads to greater investment in children’s nutrition and health.
At the same time, giving women the same opportunities as men to benefit from our programs upholds the value of justice and mercy which is at the core of LWR’s work. This initiative is something we celebrate today, on International Women’s Day.
Our model projects, which are funded by the Foods Resource Bank, are located in India, Uganda and Nicaragua, representing the three international regions where LWR works. All three are agriculture projects implemented by local partner organizations seeking to improve the production levels and food security of women and men farmers.
On tomorrow’s blog, I’ll share a bit about why a gender-integrated approach is better and what we’ve learned from our efforts so far.