Survival is of primordial importance and since decades, livelihood has been proven to be an important means to survive. While the necessity for survival, as a fundamental human right, puts everyone on equal footing, there are some layers in the interplay of relationships that hinder equal access to means of survival. One key driver of these layers of hindrances is the discriminatory perspectives and practices on the basis of gender. Gender is defined as socially constructed characterization of sexes, manifested as norms, behaviors and roles, associated with women, men, girls and boys; and as it is, it unfortunately causes inequality in the access to means of survival. Nevertheless, gender as a social construct varies through space and time, thus can be unlearned, given with a proactive environment to make it happen. It is a stake of everyone as it affects the potential of having a better quality of life for all. And to neutralize inequality, livelihood as means of survival can be a key to reorient biased perspectives back in the same line.
Businesses, given their capacities for jobs generation have been seen as highly potent movers who can provide men and women with equal access to economic opportunities.
In the recent learning session “Monitoring and Evaluation Frameworks on Gender Inclusive Practices” organized by the Philippines Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA), companies shared their experiences in championing women’s economic empowerment and transformational gender equality approaches. During the webinar, these companies illustrated how their practical experiences helped them successfully realize their business strategies while creating an environment of equal agency and economic empowerment for community members.
Effectively Engaging Women in Agricultural Projects
One of the company-presenters, East West Seeds, Inc. shared about their “Knowledge Transfer Program (KTP)”, a program implemented in fifteen (15) countries to promote the natural way of farming. The approaches applied by KTP which yielded effective results in engaging with the communities are shown in the figure below.
Communication as tool for women’s empowerment
Communication has been proven as an effective equalizer in stepping up from the inequalities on the ground. Gender relations is most often a latent truth amidst all relationships in the society. Primarily inside family relations, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between siblings as gender discriminatory relations move into a cycle of relationships in the community.
Culture is a way of life and is something that cannot be changed overnight. But as we know, behaviors and perspectives can be enlightened and changed. Gender mainstreaming experts point out that engaging both women and men from the inception of any intervention is important. This is what they call the gender and development (GAD) approach. By this, a clear understanding is levelled off from the beginning and trust building, as the most important element, happens. Even more, in this process, the advocacy towards equality is openly shared with the other actors and perpetrators of inequality, the men in the community taking part in the interplay of discriminatory relationships.
Further study needed
While some initiatives have already proven promising hopes towards achieving equality, further investigation and practice are still to be pursued to validate how these approaches are effective in assessing how these genuinely impact decision making dynamics in the family. In fact, if not given ample attention, these approaches also pose a threat in imposing unintended burden or workload for women, potentially leading to unproductivity. Empowering women including other marginalized groups like indigenous peoples, youth and persons with disabilities also means preventing the possibility of heavier economic burden to the society while also banking on the potential for creating a greater force for economic development.
One tradeoff for businesses in indulging into sustainability efforts such as those for gender equality cited in some literature, is the extra costs on resources. But this is the mistake of the previous epoch.
Today, companies are becoming more responsible in ensuring that natural resources including labor and the smallholder farmers are taken cared of, being the domains where sustainability begins. Similar to the conduct of due diligence in every business startup, there are tools that companies may use to ensure that risks will be managed under normal and contingency conditions with sustainability factors. To know more about the tools, please check the tools gathered in the learning session.