What could gender inclusion in livestock health look like?
Inclusion, in its very definition, means to be open to everyone and not limited to certain people. In low-and-middle income countries, the focus for inclusion and equity has largely been about designing and implementing programmes that incorporate active participation of women and young people. In most of these countries, women especially face certain barriers and limitations that prevent them from actively participating in and benefiting from certain societal activities. Some of these barriers are due to socio-economic, cultural, and gender restrictions. Efforts to break the cycle of exclusion are being increased in all facets of economic and social development. But what would gender inclusion look like in animal health?
Inclusion in animal health is especially crucial because women comprise most of the world’s 600 million poor livestock keepers. They do most of the day-to-day farm animal management, including the processing, marketing and selling of animal produce. But some gender norms mean women in this sector are still left behind. Throughout the value chain, there needs to be deliberate efforts to formulate strategies to help them contribute to and benefit from livestock health provisions as entrepreneurs, service and product providers, and livestock owners. Here are some areas where inclusion can make a big difference in animal health.
Access to animal health information
Some gender norms prevent women from accessing animal health related information e.g., vaccination campaigns. Stereotypes also affect the way women’s capabilities as farmers are viewed, so they are not directly targeted by information campaigns. And in some cases, women’s workload at home do not allow them to participate in information campaigns and trainings. As a result, many women lack understanding around the availability and importance of animal health products. To address this, animal health campaigns and information need to be deliberately targeted to women, taking into consideration their family and other commitments.
Women as entrepreneurs
Initiate and train women on livestock and animal health entrepreneurship. Within the value chain, there are different points where women can fit in. One, as livestock entrepreneurs with active roles in management and decision-making. Two, as product and service providers. In fact, there are cases where women vaccinators have been positively received by their communities and have been successful in conducting animal health campaigns and vaccinations.
There is need to train and equip women as local animal health service providers and as livestock entrepreneurs. This can change their beliefs and behaviours that affect their decision-making regarding the use of animal health products, and the access to training and livestock management, and thus, continue to close the gender gap.
Mind the (gender) gap
Women representation in leadership roles decreases as we move to the upper echelons of animal health distribution and manufacturing. Across the industry, women comprise of 36% of leadership teams, with only 16% of senior corporate executives. Reading through literature, there are a number of contributing factors, including employment and pay gaps. Continued investment for example in educational opportunities needed to assume leadership roles can also make a huge difference.
A scholarship that has no age limit or that can accommodate family commitments can go along away in providing further training opportunities that will enable women to seek more leadership roles in animal health. Only by identifying and closing these gaps can we reach gender equity, which benefits women in the industry, the industry itself, customers, and the animals the industry strives to help. The glass ceiling needs to come down.
While the animal health industry is ahead of many on the path to gender equality, progress is still needed to create equal opportunities and representation at all levels. There is an opportunity to ensure women’s capabilities are developed and strengthened to fully participate in the entire value chain. Because when women make decisions and take action to improve their livestock health, their own health and livelihoods, and those of their families and communities significantly improve.
This blog has been written by Beatrice Ouma as part of International Women’s Day 2023 campaign on #EmbraceEquity