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The gender-responsiveness of project management in agribusiness: Findings from a survey of nine projects

This blog represents the third in a series in the Practitioner Hub on a tool that can be used by agribusiness/value chain projects and businesses to analyse their current performance on gender-related activities at the field level and in project management. The first blog outlined the main elements of the tool. The second blog reported on the findings from reviewing 16 projects[1] on their field-level initiatives to address eight principal domains of gender inequality in agribusiness. This blog reviews the gender-responsive dimensions of project management and examines the relationship between project management and field-level initiatives. The study was commissioned by the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development to understand the extent to which donor-supported agribusiness initiatives engage with the gender transformative agenda. Full details are available in the main report.

 

What were the main gender-responsive dimensions of project management?

Based on the review of the management structures in nine projects, the following practices were identified which support a project’s actions to transform gender power imbalances in everything it does, from planning activities to monitoring outcomes (detailed examples of good practices are presented in appendix 1):

  • Gender strategy and budget: The presence of a gender strategy setting out a coherent theory of change or pathways for women’s economic empowerment (WEE), with gender equality at the centre of the project based on the business case (rather than a piecemeal response), and linked to budget allocations;
  • Staff: Skills within the project staff to deliver on gender equality, especially when all staff are accountable for delivering on WEE and their capacity is strengthened and supported by a gender expert;
  • Partners: An understanding – and commitment – among the private sector partners and other service providers of the economic, as well as the social, benefits of promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment;
  • M&E: A monitoring system which tracks the more nuanced dimensions of women’s empowerment, beyond merely being participants or beneficiaries in project activities; and
  • Procedures: An enabling environment which ensures that procedures, services, training, materials and outreach are designed and delivered in a gender-sensitive manner.

 

Which dimensions were addressed most frequently?

Most projects paid attention to the M&E system, with relevant indicators, and collecting, analysing and reporting on sex-disaggregated data. Several projects had a gender strategy and allocated funds to support gender mainstreaming activities. Few projects paid attention to ensuring the gender-responsiveness of staffing, partners and procedures.

 

What was the overall performance of projects on gender-responsive management?

The gender-responsiveness of a project’s management system was rated in each dimension from 0 = gender blind, 1 = gender equity, 2 = gender equality, to 3 = gender transformative. The results were plotted on an octagon; the larger the area, the more gender transformative were the project management initiatives. This information was used for inter-project comparisons (see box) and could be used to improve project design and implementation.

 

Comparison of gender-related activities in project management in two projects This example demonstrates the results from the study for two projects (Pakistan and Moldova). The project in Pakistan had a very comprehensive approach at the management level, with gender rooted in the project lifecycle, with a fully-fledged gender strategy and mainstreamed funding and additional dedicated funds, responsibility for delivering on gender embedded throughout the staffing and results management system, supported by a gender specialist and ongoing training. Engagement with partners was based on the business incentives to work with women’s economic empowerment. In contrast, the project in Moldova (based on the information provided) had a basic gender action matrix, a gender focal point and another staff with some expertise in gender, collected and analysed sex-disaggregated data which was linked to the annual workplan and budget, and information and outreach campaigns.

Comparison of gender-related activities in project management in two projects
This example demonstrates the results from the study for two projects (Pakistan and Moldova). The project in Pakistan had a very comprehensive approach at the management level, with gender rooted in the project lifecycle, with a fully-fledged gender strategy and mainstreamed funding and additional dedicated funds, responsibility for delivering on gender embedded throughout the staffing and results management system, supported by a gender specialist and ongoing training. Engagement with partners was based on the business incentives to work with women’s economic empowerment. In contrast, the project in Moldova (based on the information provided) had a basic gender action matrix, a gender focal point and another staff with some expertise in gender, collected and analysed sex-disaggregated data which was linked to the annual workplan and budget, and information and outreach campaigns.

 

 

Why did projects differ in the gender-responsiveness of their project management?

Factors that may account for different levels of project interest in establishing a gender-responsive project management system include:

  • The project context – how urgent was the need to address gender issues: were gender inequalities widely recognized as an essential priority, central to the national development process?
  • The commitment of the donor to addressing gender issues in agribusiness and value chain development, underpinned by technical support.
  • The scale of the project, in terms of amount of money and duration: larger investments which were implemented over several years generally paid more attention to management structures, whereas arrangements for implementing smaller grants were more ad hoc.
  • Accreditation for fair trade and decent work, which provided impetus to address the more transformative social aspects of WEE.

 

Do projects with more gender-responsive management systems result in more gender-related initiatives at the field level?

This question was addressed by linking the project management results with the data on field-level initiatives presented in the earlier blog. The chart below correlates the gender-responsiveness of project activities at the field level with that of project management. The results fall into four clusters:

A   High performance at the field level promoting gender equality, supported by average project management: Kenya/Rwanda

B    Solid performance at the field level promoting gender equality, supported by a high level of project management: Pakistan

C   Solid performance at the field level promoting gender equality, supported by average (variable) project management: several projects

D   Weak performance in terms of both field-level initiatives achieving gender equity and project management: Moldova.

 

Figure 1: Correlation between project management initiatives and gender activities at the field level

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The data indicated that the more robust gender-responsive management systems in Ghana I, Nigeria, Pakistan and Senegal resulted in a wider range of gender initiatives at the field level. In contrast, the relatively weak project management capacity to address gender in Moldova was reflected in weaker outcomes at the field level. However, in Moldova, gender inequalities are considered to be less severe than all other countries participating in the study[2]; hence the perceived urgency to address gender issues may have been less.  

While it would appear that the management system largely drives field-level activities, this is not always the case. For example, the same strong project management approach in Pakistan generated two different field-level responses depending on the sector and location: private sector engagement on gender issues proved to be more receptive among small horticultural businesses located in the remote parts of the country than the larger enterprises in the dairy/meat sector located in the central region.  In contrast, the Kenya/Rwanda grant produced very interesting field-level initiatives but was not underpinned by a sophisticated project management system.

 

Challenges and concluding thoughts about WEE empowerment and agribusiness initiatives

Four specific challenges emerged:

  • Finding appropriate entry points to engage with women: In cultural settings where women have limited freedom of movement and opportunities for market engagement, one of the biggest challenges is how to reach women. One approach which is less likely to meet resistance from men is to start where women are already active in the value chain. However, it is also important to ensure women do not get stuck in that niche by either expanding that role (for example, through value addition) or enabling them to move into another part of the existing value chain or into a new value chain.
  • Facilitating a mindset shift towards WEE in agribusiness: To achieve sustainable development impacts, WEE needs to be at the heart of all agribusiness initiatives. It can be an eye-opener for many to understand that gender inequalities are a major contributor to value chain inefficiencies. Projects need to work with dynamic and far-sighted staff, private sector partners and service providers who are willing to change their view of the world and foster that perception among others.
  • Supporting investments in public goods: Even when the private sector is committed to WEE, it is often necessary for projects to assume responsibility for supporting the soft aspects of WEE where the business benefits are not immediately evident. This could include activities that drill down to changing behaviors which lie at the root of gender inequalities (such as community sensitisation or household methodologies) or additional capacity building for women to enable them to fully benefit from the market.
  • Going to scale: While small grants are useful with innovate on gender transformative approaches, the challenge is how to go to scale and get them into mainstream development initiatives.

 

Based on the findings from the study, the concluding thoughts include:

  • Placing gender considerations at the centre of project design: WEE should be seen to be fundamental to the successful outcome and long-term sustainability of agribusiness initiatives;
  • Introducing some of the more innovative field-level gender transformative approaches into the design of new projects or the implementation of ongoing projects; track their impact and look for opportunities to take the successful ones to scale;
  • Strengthening the gender-responsiveness of project management: to create an enabling environment for WEE; and
  • Share good practices and experiences on WEE.

 

Appendix 1: Good practices to ensure gender-responsive project management

Dimensions of project management

Good practices

I. Gender strategy, targets, fund allocation and background studies

  • Set clear objectives for what a project will deliver on WEE
  • Develop a gender strategy in a participatory manner to ensure the engagement and understanding of all project staff
  • Base the strategy on a gender analysis of the project context
  • Develop a coherent theory of change or results chain on WEE to explain the linkages between the proposed project activities/interventions and outputs, and the expected outcomes and impacts; introduce additional interventions to fill any gaps
  • Allocate funds to support strategy implementation as part of the regular budget; it may also be necessary to have dedicated GEWE funds to support activities
  • Set targets for women’s participation in each component which go beyond the status quo (that is, what might be achievable without much effort – in most contexts this would be more than 30%)
  • Ensure each component head is accountable for delivering on the target and develops and reports on a plan for outreach, introducing remedial activities if required

II. Staff

  • Hire a full-time gender specialist for project management team who is responsible for operationalising the gender strategy and supporting colleagues on implementation
  • As an alternative to a full-time gender specialist, appoint a gender focal point from among the existing staff and ensure they have sufficient time allocated to perform these duties as part of their normal workload (not in addition) and opportunities for capacity building
  • Ensure key/all project staff are responsible for delivering on the gender strategy in their respective areas of work (as specified in their terms of reference), with technical support from the gender specialist
  • Ensure the project director has overall responsibility for delivering on the gender strategy, as specified in the terms of reference
  • Develop staff skills in identifying, delivering, reporting and analysing GEWE interventions

III. M&E indicators, sex-disaggregated data and reporting

  • Capture various dimensions of empowerment – that is, more than just women being counted as beneficiaries as a result of attending training or being recruited as lead farmers, but benefits being reaped at the household level and women‘s lives within it
  • Collect and analyse both quantitative and qualitative sex-disaggregated data to capture the full story on WEE
  • Ensure all studies have a gender dimension
  • Undertake specific studies to explore gender issues in more detail
  • Produce case studies, publications and other media to share lessons and experiences from successes and failures

IV. Partners

  • Develop partner capacity in identifying and addressing gender inequalities and promoting WEE
  • Enable private sector and other partners to understand the business case for WEE, as it relates to their own area of work
  • Make partners accountable for delivering and reporting on gender targets
  • Encourage partners to share their experiences and advocate for WEE in relevant fora

V. Procedures for accessing project services

  • Hire empowered women and/or gender-sensitive men in outreach roles
  • Ensure project documentation is provided in local languages, taking account of literacy levels
  • Provide project information and services through media which women can access
  • Ensure the timing and locations of project-related meetings are convenient for women
  • Ensure the conditions attached to project participation are not onerous on women, especially in terms of their impact on women’s time or registration documents

 

[1] Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia), Department for International Development (UK), European Union, Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN, Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammen-arbeit (Germany), International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Trade Centre and World Bank

[2] Reference was made to country results for UNDP’s Gender Development Index and Gender Inequality Index, and OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index.

 

gender-inclusive-business

This blog is a part of the September 2017 series on Empowering women, in partnership with SPRING.

Read the full series for insights on business models that empower girls and women, a new analysis of gender impacts of value chain interventions, tips on gender-lens investing and many inspiring personal stories from women.

Clare Bishop
Clare Bishop
Independent consultant working on gender, agricultural development and rural livelihoods

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