Using vignettes for gender research

Gender research can be used to understand community perceptions of social and gender norms. To better understand these perceptions in the context of poultry intensification, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in collaboration with GALVmed, recently carried out a rapid gender landscaping analysis in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe using a unique method – the vignette. The landscaping analysis was designed to inform the gender context underpinning the PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow (PREVENT) project in these countries.

A fictitious story about a chicken-keeper named Amina is a tool for conversations about social norms

The vignette approach involves reading out a fictitious story involving a main protagonist in a focus group setting and leaving the end of the story blank for the group to comment on ‘what happens next’ as a tool for a conversation about social and gender norms. As the landscaping study was designed to understand community perceptions of women’s involvement in poultry intensification, the vignette in this study was of a chicken keeper named Amina, whose poultry business was flourishing. Amina’s husband approaches her and wants to discuss her business. Responses from the community as to what happened next ranged widely. The following are some examples:

Amina was talented in chicken keeping as she started before she was married and benefited from it. I believe her husband wanted to give her knowledge on the business as well as to congratulate her because what she does is beneficial to the family and the whole society.

– Woman in Tanzania.

There’s no mention on the story where Amina’s business takes a dwindling turn, but it is forever growing, which excites me a lot. So, when the husband wants to talk to Amina about her business, there’s an element of knowledge capacitation the husband wants to offer to her so the business grows to greater heights.

– Man in Zimbabwe.

Maybe the man is jealous she is doing better than him and not getting her attention and other men are eyeing her; she is getting more money. He might think maybe one day she will not be submissive to him. He is afraid.

– Woman in Nigeria.

Through the vignette, we were able to gather information about potential consequences from husbands, family members, and community members when a woman intensifies her poultry production at the expense of her care duties. This includes responsibilities to the family, children, community, or breaking social norms such as speaking to male customers at night. Such consequences include shaming, social ostracization, gossip, jealousy, marital conflict, possibly even domestic violence, or divorce. While support from a husband and family members can lead to growth of the business, as the husband becomes more involved, there is a question about whether women’s ability to control resources and benefits diminishes.

The results of this study raise some interesting questions for the PREVENT project and the gender consequences of poultry intensification. GALVmed will be using these findings to inform a gender intentional approach to understanding, tracking, and communicating the gendered effects of the project.

This blog was written by Katharine Tjasink and co-authored by Zoë Campbell (ILRI)

Gender and Livestock: Exploring the trends in the dynamics of livestock ownership and care in small scale producer households

GALVmed conducted a study to build a better understanding of the household dynamics at play within livestock-owning small-scale producers (SSPs) households in India, Ethiopia and Tanzania. In particular, the study would afford a clearer focus on the issue of gender and livestock. This was considered necessary since previous GALVmed Monitoring and Evaluation studies (focusing on issues such as vaccine adoption, livestock productivity, etc.) had collected gender disaggregated data, but at a fairly limited level of detail. These wider studies have suggested highly variable trends and patterns in terms of livestock ownership and management between adult males and adult females. It was therefore considered necessary to undertake a one-off specialised gender study. This would provide the opportunity to drill considerably deeper into this topic of gender and household dynamics and to provide GALVmed with a much more detailed picture than is afforded through its standard livestock health related studies.

The results of the study revealed clear and illuminating trends. The widely held generalisation that certain species of livestock are the preserve either of men or of women appears to be a misleading over-simplification. Both genders are active participants in the care of all species and children can also play an important role in the upkeep of household livestock. There are, however, clear trends in the activities undertaken by both men and women and, while these vary somewhat across geographies, they can be broadly described as:

  • For poultry: women perform more labour in the ‘daily chore’ type activities (e.g. feeding, cleaning housing etc.) but the input of men increases substantially for the ‘management and money’ type activities (e.g. buying medicines / vaccines, when to sell / slaughter, what to do with poultry income etc.). This increase in involvement by men does not eclipse that of women in these ‘management and money’ type activities. Rather, it suggests that poultry production is a shared household enterprise, albeit with a higher level of input by women.  
  • For small ruminants: noticeable geographical variations exist, although the general trend of more input by men in the ‘management and money’ categories than in the ‘daily chore’ activities continues. In the Ethiopian and Tanzanian study areas, this input by men eclipses that of women, but, even here, approximately 30 – 60% of households have active input by women in ‘management and money’ activities. Again, as a generalisation it seems fair to consider small ruminant production as a shared SSP household enterprise.
  • For large ruminants:  noticeable country variations exist but the perception that women have very little input or say in cattle (aside from milking) is shown to be largely inaccurate. Again, only in the Tanzanian study area is the role of women in ‘management and money’ activities eclipsed by men. As a generalisation, it seems fair to consider large ruminant production as a shared SSP household enterprise, albeit with a higher level of input by men.

The evidence from this study supports the theory that livestock is best considered as a shared household enterprise rather than a specific male or female SSP undertaking. It also highlights the dangers of collecting disaggregated gender data at a shallow or simplified level (as is often necessarily the case when the focus of the study lies elsewhere on animal health and productivity issues). Please see the full study report.

Challenging gender norms in poultry management

They say necessity is the mother of invention. Necessity is what drove Rahma Joseph to start a chicken business. The mother of four from Iringa in Tanzania, was faced with challenges on how to provide for her family and saw an opportunity in poultry business.

“We started with fourteen chickens that were given to us as a group by Care International. We took turns to take care of the chickens and with time, the flock grew to 100,” says Rahma

After a while, some of the group members dropped out of the programme due to various reasons, but Rahma and the few who were left divided the flock that was left and each went their separate ways to take care of their chickens.  She has since grown her flock to around 200 chickens. She makes decisions around their health e.g., vaccinations and also when to sell them.

It is documented that livestock, and especially small stock is an important entry point for promoting women empowerment in rural areas to enable them to break out of the cycle of poverty. Poultry represents an accessible, and low-investment livestock that may help to secure high-quality food and income, especially for rural women-headed households.  It is therefore not uncommon that the first livestock investment that women like Rahma would go for is poultry.

However, it is also documented that as poultry production intensifies in the small-scale segments, and income increases, the level of women’s involvement in poultry management and decision-making declines. The woman’s role is relegated to labour related activities instead. And yet study after study shows that when women have cash, they will spend it on things that improve the quality of life for their family. That means more money for buying food to improve nutrition, schooling for children, visiting a doctor, or even building a toilet. Empowering women to become active decision makers along the value chain is an integral part of getting them out of cyclical poverty.

Nearby in Chanya village, thirty-six-year-old Helena Kindole proudly shows off her new chicken house. She built the house through profits earned from her small poultry business. She is what is known as a mother-unit, meaning she buys day-old chicks from the hatchery and sells them off at a young age, from six months old to other farmers. She has been able to grow her business and can make decisions such as using the profits to build the chicken house.

Women in rural areas are beginning to think more boldly about opportunities available to them, that can improve their livelihoods, status and influence in their homes, communities, and economies. And poultry production is one such avenue.

In April 2021 GALVmed and animal health company Ceva Santé Animale launched PREVENT (PRomoting and Enabling Vaccination Efficiently, Now and Tomorrow), an initiative that will work with medium-size hatcheries in target countries to annually distribute more than 50 million vaccinated day-old-chicks to small-scale poultry producers. PREVENT seeks to be gender intentional,  primarily through Field Technician intervention. PREVENT plans to diminish and reverse the decline of women’s involvement in poultry management activities.

For women like Rahma and Helena, this will be an opportunity to expand their businesses and continue having even greater ability to make decisions on their businesses.

“I would like to build a larger poultry house in order to increase my poultry production and sell more poultry and increase my profit.” concludes Helena.

 Written by Beatrice Ouma, GALVmed Senior Communications Manager

The challenges facing women small-scale producers and how we can help

The International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8 to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The theme for 2022 is #BreakTheBias, for there is still work to do to achieve a gender-equal, diverse and inclusive world.

Women have tremendous importance in the agriculture and livestock sector as they form about half of the agricultural workforce and are agents of change and resilience builders. However, despite women’s key role in agriculture, there are still many challenges and biases that we need to overcome to enable to fully benefit from their contribution.

At GALVmed, we believe in inclusivity, and we have reflected upon the challenges that women small-scale producers face in low-and middle-income countries (LMIC) as we do our part in contributing to women’s empowerment through projects and initiatives.

This blog was written as part of the International Women’s Day 2022 campaign.

All female poultry vaccinators in Ethiopia

An all-female vaccinator group is tackling a deadly poultry disease in Ethiopia.

The Newcastle Disease vaccine project in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia started in January 2017. Its objective was to introduce and implement a Newcastle Disease vaccination and general poultry health and management programme.

In 30 districts in Tigray through female village vaccinators, with the goal to reach 150,000 households, the project aims to empower women whose minimum education qualification is Grade 10 who are categorised as landless women.

(Video by Pius Sawa, WRENmedia consultant, for GALVmed.)