In an earlier post we introduced the gender integration pilot program that we are undertaking with Lutheran World Relief. The first pilot program to launch is in Uganda and will be working in the eastern part of the country with a newly formed grower’s society that works with 11 co-operatives. The pilot program will work with two of these cooperatives to help improve farm production, marketing and to introduce a model called “Farming as a Family Business”.
This model provides gender training to men and women that demonstrates the value of sharing resources and decision-making among men, women, and children of the family to increase women’s self-sufficiency as well as maximize women and men’s contributions to the family. These are conducted as separate trainings for men and women, to address different issues faced by both sexes in a safe environment and to help participants to understand assumptions, attitudes, and realities of the opposite sex. The “farming as a family business” training emphasizes the benefits of working together as a family, the rights and responsibilities that men, women and children have, and the practical ways to implement the model.
Just as the agricultural context differs from place to place (corn and soy in Iowa and olives and peaches in California), so too does the social context. Thinking about gender equity and the definition of ‘family’ can differ greatly from one place to the next. It is difficult to talk about family in a way that is not biased by our own experiences. This is why it is so important to test models of gender equity and family with in-country partners. In the case of Uganda, many marriages are polygamous. It is common and socially acceptable for men to have more than one wife. While it may be difficult for most North Americans to imagine what this might be like, thinking about the role of a man with multiple wives and the complexities of the division of labor, sharing of resources and raising of children can quickly lead us to see how much more effective working with local partners who understand the culture can be.
One of the objectives of the program is to have increased participation by women and support of women’s participation by men in the grower’s cooperatives. Participant feedback and changes to the program as new things are learned are part of the flexible partnership between FRB, LWR and our in-country partners. Expect to see this program on the FRB website soon.
Angela Boss, FRB Staff