03. March 2022

Adopting gender transformative approaches to tackle inequality and improve livelihoods

Jiselle Steele, Private Sector Gender Advisor at Oxfam Business Advisory Service (OBAS) shares insights on how the public and private sector and multi-stakeholder initiatives can embed gender transformative approaches to tackle the most pressing issues for smallholder farmers.

What is a gender transformative approach?

Adopting a gender transformative approach means going beyond the symptoms and addressing the root causes of gendered dimensions of poverty, vulnerability, and inequality. It involves changing the policies and practices of institutions (such as communities, governments, and businesses) and the social norms, attitudes, and practices that sustain discrimination.

Successfully embedding a gender transformative approach within a multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI) encourages public, private and civil society actors to look at key gender issues differently. It also requires developing new processes and ways of working that enable women, men and other genders to participate equitably to identify solutions and allocate resources to address inequality within a value chain.

Why is it important in tackling key issues for coffee farmers, including living income?

Adopting gender transformative approaches enables interventions to tackle the root causes of these issues in small-scale farming rather than solely focusing on activities that address the symptoms of gender inequality.

Recognising the importance of gender as a central, cross-cutting theme to build a sustainable and prosperous future for coffee producers, the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) Coffee Public-Private Sector Task Force commissioned Oxfam Business Advisory Service (OBAS) to help embed gender transformative approaches throughout its plans and activities. The ICO Task Force is an MSI of public and private sector stakeholders from across the coffee sector, who have come together to improve livelihoods, build resilient landscapes, increase market transparency and transform policy in the coffee sector.

In order to effectively embed gender transformative approaches into its activities, the ICO Task Force and other similar MSIs must encourage their public and private sector members to take more deliberate action to address the underlying influence and impact of negative gender norms through their policies and practices. This can help to tackle issues such as gender-based violence, unequal distribution of unpaid care work and sexual harassment and abuse.

What is needed to embed a gender transformational approach?

The following principles should underpin the efforts to integrate gender transformative approaches into the work of public and private sector stakeholders and MSIs that aim to provoke systems change and tackle issues such as living income:

  • The ability to critically reflect and challenge the traditional gender norms and assumptions of existing social and power structures across an agricultural value chain

  • Ensuring the meaningful and active participation of women producers and other under-represented groups in decision making and leadership roles

  • Encouraging open dialogue with men, boys and wider communities to shift attitudes on traditional social norms.

Good practice examples of integrated gender transformative approaches from both public and private sectors

The Hanns R. Neumann Stiftung (HRNS) Gender Household Approach and work with the Uganda Coffee Farmers Alliance (UCFA) promotes farming as a joint family business, providing training on joint-decision making in smallholder households and supporting greater inclusion of women in leadership roles.

Ético, the ethical trade company, in collaboration with the Juan Fco Pas Silva Cooperative, Soppexcca and Social Business Network pioneered an initiative, Recognition of Unpaid Care Work in coffee cost structures that incorporates a component of women’s unpaid care work into the cost structures of coffee contracts in Nicaragua, working closely with cooperatives and famer households.

The Nespresso Gender Analysis tool uses rigorous data collection and in-depth analyses to provide insights and identify actions that can be taken to give women access to resources and to increase their empowerment and role in decision-making processes.

The ‘Coffee Sub Sector Gender Policy’, established in early in 2021, is a public and private sector initiative approved by Honduras National Coffee Board (CONACAFE) that aims to reduce inclusion gaps in the sector with strategic activities and initiatives to increase gender equity and social inclusion.

Taking action: first steps to integrate gender transformative approaches in public and private sector interventions

Oxfam Business Advisory Service recommends:

  1. Make use of available resources to help respond to gender inequality issues using gender transformative approaches and develop a timebound action plan for implementation. Tools such as the CARE International Gender Marker, the PGE Gender Equity Index, and the soon to be launched ICO Gender Transformative Tracker developed by the Oxfam Business Advisory Service, offer guidance to strengthen the gender elements of existing activity and identify opportunities to incorporate gender-transformative approaches into the design and evaluation of projects. The Joint Programme on Gender Transformative Approaches for Food Security and Nutrition by FAO, IFAD and WFP also includes a compendium of good practices for the successful application of gender transformative approaches in different contexts.

  2. Work directly with women led producer organisations such as the International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA), allocating resources to support their involvement and build capacity of women producers to take on decision making roles and participate in multi-stakeholder dialogues.

  3. Develop gender metrics and collect data disaggregated by gender, race, age and other identities to monitor and measure the impact of activities that embed gender transformative approaches. Publish the data collected and regularly report on progress made to build accountability and share learnings that can be applied across the sector.

  4. Introduce gender policies, adopt gender sensitive business practices and seek to go beyond minimum due diligence to tackle inequality and gender discrimination in order to remove barriers and enable the increased representation of women throughout the value chain.

Effectively embedding gender transformative approaches in interventions to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers can help to bring about the systems change needed to transform the sector advance gender equality on the individual, community and policy level.

By working together and using their resources and available tools to integrate gender transformative approaches, MSIs like the ICO Task Force and public and private sector actors alike can have a significant impact to advance gender equality in agricultural supply chains.

The Living Income Community of Practice will host a webinar next Wednesday 16th of February to learn more about gender transformative approaches, why they are important and how the public and private sector, civil society organisations and multi-stakeholder initiatives can adopt these approaches to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in coffee, cocoa and other agricultural supply chains. You can learn more and register here.