What will it take to deliver a gender transformative approach?

Stephen Hall -

The rationale for adopting a gender transformative approach goes beyond just considering the symptoms of gender disparity, it addresses the social norms and attitudes that lie behind them. The CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems has placed a transformative approach at the heart of its gender strategy. But how can this be turned into a reality?

If we look back over four decades of gender development research, there have been some successes, however change has not been as deep, widespread or sustained as we want. Reflecting on the reasons for this, we can identify several barriers:

  • Gender research for development has lacked a strong and coherent narrative with which to influence decision-makers and attract funding.
  • Gender research in agricultural development has mainly been tied to the pipeline research model, and this has proved a bad fit.
  • There has been a failure to invest in organizational culture change, especially at CGIAR, that is needed to address gender effectively.

Identifying the factors that have slowed past progress is an important first step in understanding what we need to do differently from now on. For example, how can we create and maintain a compelling narrative? Who within our organizations needs to be convinced about the gender transformative approach, and how deeply do they need to engage with it?

There are examples of success where interventions have successfully delivered changes in attitudes and behavior on gender-based issues. Consultants Augustine Kimonyo of Rwanda and Fred Kinto of the Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University, Uganda have both been working on projects addressing gender-based violence in Africa. Diane Lindsay of Helen Keller International has worked on a CARE project in Sierra Leone that addresses adolescent reproductive health.

There are common elements in these successful programs: sponsoring development organizations had buy-in from their staff before program initiation; the program engaged with both men and women; intensive effort was required to achieve change; and challenges surrounding scaling up and sustaining success.

Stephen Hall

Stephen Hall

Stephen Hall's previous leadership roles include CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Professor of Marine Biology at Flinders University, Australia. Stephen has served on several international advisory panels and, in 2010, was a member of a global team overseeing the reform of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). Recognized as a leading scientist in his field, he has contributed more than 80 scientific publications on fisheries ecology and environmental issues as well as a highly cited book on the environmental effects of fishing. In 2004, Stephen was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation and he continues to investigate and write on the roles and potential of fisheries and aquaculture for supporting international development objectives. In 2005, he was awarded the Australian Public Service Medal for leadership of AIMS. Stephen holds a Ph.D. in Marine Ecology from St. Andrews University and a B.S. in Marine Biology and Biochemistry from University of Wales, Bangor.

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