Discussing gender equality with families and communities: MEDA’s Male Gender Activists
To mark International Women’s Day 2018, MEDA is highlighting important issues and voices around women’s economic empowerment and gender equality in the area of economic development. This is the third in our “Press for Progress” blog series celebrating the power of women entrepreneurs and their partners around the world.
Globally, gender inequality remains one of the fundamental challenges of the 21st century. Despite awareness about the importance of women empowerment growing globally, women are still economically, socially and politically routinely disenfranchised. Even though women often become the main or sole supporter of their households, men continue to dominate decisions at the household level which has caused increased poverty and lack of independence for women.It is against this backdrop that MEDA sets out to promote gender equality in Ghana through the economic empowerment of women with its Greater Rural Opportunity for Women (GROW) project. This project focuses on improving food security for families by assisting women farmers to increase soybean production and form market linkages that will increase incomes over time.
GROW cannot achieve this overarching objective without paying keen attention to issues of gender inequality. Northern Ghana has its own complex set of socio-cultural norms hindering gender equality. For example, women in Northern Ghana do not own their own production resources, including land. When women own the land they work, they are granted control and the ability to transfer their land. To read more about why land tenure is important for women's empowerment in Ghana, please visit this previous blog post.
To help promote gender equality and change the cultural perceptions and norms, GROW has decided to work with Male Gender Activists (MGAs) at the community level. This pilot concept is still learning how best to bring about equality at the household level.
Let’s look at what the MGAs do in bringing families and communities together to discuss issues of gender equality.
What is the MGA Concept in GROW?
The concept MGAs was first introduced to the GROW project in 2015 aimed at training men as gender advocates and champions of the GROW project. They were tasked to mobilize and educate the men in GROW project communities to support GROW women farmers and women in general. These MGAs were acting as champions who advocate for changes in socio-cultural norms that hinder women’s access to productive resources to improve the livelihoods of women and households.
Selection and Operation of the Male Gender Activist (MGAs)
MEDA’s Key Facilitating Partners (KFPs) were tasked to work with the GROW women in various project communities to select males who dignify women and are willing to champion their course. Within the GROW project, these men are referred to as MGAs.
Trainings and sensitizations are conducted for selected MGAs with support from a Gender Focal Person at the various Local Assemblies. They are equipped with knowledge and skills to facilitate their work in the communities. MGAs from various communities meet occasionally to interact and share their experiences and challenges on how to overcome gender barriers in development.
Central in MGAs training and network platform is the need for them to educate men to support the provision of fertile plots of lands to women, and to support them in the production of soya. The activities of MGAs have led to positive behaviour change from men within the communities and has improved women access to fertile lands. As of 2017, GROW has enlisted 27 MGAs within the various KFPs.
Successes and Benefits of the Male Gender Activist Concept in GROW Project
The evaluation results from the initial pilot revealed that the MGAs were successful in engaging community men and women on gender issues such as men supporting in household chores, men supporting in women leadership and men supporting in family and community decision making process.
What is innovative about the MGA concept is its attempt to address ways of engaging men to play a critical role in championing gender equality by talking to other men about gender issues and to recognize the important contributions of women in society. The MGAs sensitized their communities on more equal perceptions of gender-related issues and held regular meetings to talk with the men in the community. Their activities have also witnessed peace and unity among families in their communities. They have also educated community men about the GROW project and its objectives, and committed to promote women’s rights in their communities.
MGAs were vital participants in this conversation to increasing women access to more productive lands in the Upper West Region, as they advocate for community and spousal support for women’s access to land. Anecdotally, we know that MGAs have been very successful at advocating gender issues in their communities. MGA activities have led to gradual changes in ownership and control of resources to women in GROW communities, which contributes to increased soybeans yields. Men are realizing that when women have the ability to manage their resources, they can be very productive and economical.
Christian is the Communications, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer for the GROW project. He assists in the designing and implementation of the GROW communications and Monitoring and Evaluation strategy. Christian has been working with the GROW project in this capacity for three years. He holds a masters from the University of Cape Coast and an undergraduate degree from the University for Development Studies. He is very passionate about women and girls’ empowerment.