Women around the world still face many challenges and disadvantages based on their sex/gender identity, and the agriculture and livestock sectors are no exception.
Women continue to face challenges like unequal access to resources such as land, credit and capital, veterinary services, livestock ownership, or even knowledge and information. Although they are typically involved in caring and managing livestock, they tend to own fewer and smaller animals (small ruminants and poultry) and decision-making power and involvement normally decrease as the business grows. All these constraints continue to limit women’s access to opportunities.
The International Women’s Day is celebrated annually on March 8. This year, the focus is on gender equity. At GALVmed, we have adapted this topic to the animal health and livestock context. What do we mean by gender equity in the livestock sector? While equality states that all individuals are equal in status, rights and opportunities, equity recognizes that individuals have different needs and power based on their sex or gender identity and/or expression, and that these differences should be identified and addressed in a manner that rectifies inequities.
We asked some of our GALVmed colleagues why they think it is important to have gender inclusion in the livestock sector and how to achieve that inclusion. Here are their reflections:
The importance of gender inclusion in the livestock sector
It is estimated that Africa’s population will be over 2 billion by 2050. Given demographic predictions, there is an increasingly growing demand for food security and livestock-source foods such as milk, eggs, and meat. Facilitating women’s access to resources, land, capital, and education and training, while promoting their empowerment would increase livestock production, contributing to food security. Thembinkosi Ramuthivheli, Senior Manager of Commercial Development & Impact in Africa, reflects on the relation between gender inclusion and food security.
Dr Steve Wilson, Director of R&D highlights how inequality within the management of livestock and associated systems has a resultant impact on sustainability, productivity and health of families and the wider community.
According to Katharine Tjasink, Senior Manager of Impact, Evaluation & Learning, evidence shows that women tend to reinvest most of their earnings from livestock back into nutrition, healthcare, school, and other household-benefitting activities, which contribute to improving livelihoods and breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty.
It is evident that women play a decisive role in the overall health and well-being of their families. To Gwynneth Clay, Project Leader of the Brucellosis Vaccine Initiative, this essentially mean they can play a vital role in the successful implementation of One Health strategies.
Achieving gender inclusion in the livestock sector
Acknowledging gender inequity and understanding its consequences is the first step, but addressing the constraints and designing effective solutions is not that simple. There are many structural and cultural factors that need to be taken into consideration. “There is clearly a need to find solutions that fit within a cultural context which ensure that woman and men have a more equal contribution to how their livestock and associated household decisions are made,” says Dr Steve Wilson.
As stated by Katharine Tjasink, achieving gender equity at scale would require serious policy commitment backed by an implementable plan for shifting perceptions, changing behaviour, and addressing structural and other barriers. And Thembinkosi Ramuthivheli also weighs in that any gender initiative, whether targeted or transformative, not simultaneously aiming at cultural norms and rules, will result in limited advances. Initiatives aimed at increasing access and/or providing opportunities for women and girls, should include educational programs to change society’s entrenched gender beliefs and attitude systems.
Patricia Valdeón Noya, Senior Communications Assistant, highlights the importance of facilitating education and training. “Education and training in animal health and husbandry practices is key for women small-scale producers’ success and empowerment, as it reinforces knowledge, builds confidence, and provides opportunities.”
Overall, and according to Dr Lamyaa Al-Riyami, Senior Manager of Evaluation, Programme Planning, we must ensure that “support is tailored and appropriate to the needs of small-scale producers, leading to equal economic development and empowerment opportunities.”
With all this in mind, what is GALVmed’s approach? Neil Gammon, Senior Director of Funder Relations & Development, shed some light on how GALVmed is addressing this matter. “We look at where women tend to be abundantly focused in small-scale livestock production and we make sure that we have very good and effective interventions that generate significant impact in those areas. Specifically, this would mean us implementing, at scale, vaccination programmes in small-scale poultry and small ruminant production. Vaccination rates in both these areas are currently very low and effecting a transformational change here would bring tangible benefits to millions of women small-scale producers.”
There is a long way to achieving gender equity in the livestock sector. Animal Health and livestock strategies need to be designed minding and addressing gender issues and inequities. By encouraging women’s empowerment, they can fully achieve their potential and value as key players in One Health, livestock productivity and sustainability, and livelihoods.
This blog has been written by Patricia Valdeón Noya as part of the International Women’s Day 2023 campaign on #EmbraceEquity