Four things we learned from Let’s Talk Agriculture, episode nine with Jennifer Denomy, MEDA’s Technical Director, Gender Equality and Social Inclusion

Above: A Technolinks+ client preparing some of her produce

International Development Week in Canada takes place from Feb 5-11th this year. This week, MEDA will examine several key themes, including the role of localization, biodiversity, gender equality and social inclusion, and market systems.

A recent episode of the “Let’s Talk Agriculture” podcast focused on Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) and included an engaging conversation with MEDA’s Technical Director, GESI, Jennifer Denomy. Jennifer Denomy and podcast host Sharon Idahosa explore why GESI in agriculture matters, the challenges that exist, and how gender equality benefits businesses, farms, and the world in general.

Here are four key takeaways from Sharon Idahosa’s conversation with Jennifer Denomy.

1. Gender equality is good for everyone

There is a common misconception that when we talk about gender equality, it is a byword for discussing “women’s issues”. This belief, according to Jennifer Denomy, is false. “Gender equality is about equal opportunities for everyone,” says Denomy. Gender equality also benefits everyone, too. Greater gender equality in agriculture leads to greater productivity, a better higher quality of life, and increased food security.

2. Greater gender equality in agriculture is good for business

Gender equality doesn’t just make sense from a moral and ethical perspective- it makes good business sense too. A recent McKinsey study that examined 15 countries and more than 1,000 companies, came to the conclusion that more diverse companies have greater financial performance over time. The FAO also estimates that if the FAO estimates that if women had access to the same productive resources as men, they could increase the yields on their farms by 20-30%- this in turn would raise the total agricultural output in the Global South by 4%. It could also reduce the number of hungry people by 12-17%.

3. Women perform many agricultural duties but receive little to no credit for their work

Because of systemic barriers that women face around the world, they are expected to not only work on the farm but also perform unpaid care work, such as childcare, cleaning, and cooking. For example, women in sub-Saharan Africa spend 40 billion hours per year collecting water for domestic and agricultural use. On the farm, women are often seen as ‘helpers’ instead of as farmers themselves. Their labor is less valued, and they do not have a say as to what is grown on the farm, when to harvest, and how to price their crops at the market. As a result, they also have limited access to training and extension services.

Yet, the benefits of reducing these additional burdens on women could be significant. In Tanzania, it is estimated that converting the free time from collecting water into employment could create one million new jobs.

4. Achieving gender equality is a worthwhile goal

If we want to reduce poverty and increase gender equality, we should focus on supporting people. “Investing in women [and] investing in people is critical,” says Denomy. This means that building support for women to access land is vital and providing services, such as input sales, credit, access to equipment, can aid women to create prosperous farms and businesses.

To help facilitate gender equality in our projects, MEDA created the GEM framework. GEM is a toolkit that assists companies, investors and companies to assess their gender policies and to help them create solutions that will make their workplaces more gender inclusive.

Even though there is no country in the world where men and women share unpaid care work equally or that pays men and women equally, striving to make the world more equitable for everyone is worth the effort.

“[Promoting gender equality] is one of the main levers of positive change in the world,” Jennifer Denomy concluded.

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  • MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates)

    MEDA is an international economic development organization that creates business solutions to poverty. We work in agri-food market systems, focusing primarily on women and youth in rural communities in the Global South. Our success is measured by income, improved processes, increased knowledge, and the creation of decent work.

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