ACDI/VOCA’s Irwin Outlines Practical Steps for Gender Integration at AIDF
There’s consensus that women are key drivers of economic growth, and that including women at the heart of programs is smart development. But the how-to is elusive. Whether donor mandated, or project driven, a gender focus must reach all levels of a program to succeed, from conception to implementation.
ACDI/VOCA Senior Technical Director Bronwyn Irwin recently presented takeaways from a USAID-funded farming program in Zimbabwe and outlined practical and concrete steps for integrating gender—and amplifying results—at the Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) panel at the Washington Convention Center.
Basic Steps for Integrating Gender
- Gender Equality in Staffing
According to Irwin, to reach women, projects need female staff members. It seems intuitive but can be tricky to carry out in sectors where men receive more training and have more experience. Achieving gender balance in the program staff in Zimbabwe required a concerted effort to identify qualified women candidates.
- Targeting Women to Participate
She said ACDI/VOCA made a point of identifying women who could serve as lead farmers and set a goal of 60 percent participation by women. Women were given priority for registration to help integrate them into the program and boost women participants.
- Timing Programs
Zimbabwean women, like most women in rural areas, have significant household responsibilities. Therefore training sessions in the contract farming program were held in the morning, when children were at school, and lasted no longer than an hour to enable the women to meet other responsibilities.
ACDI/VOCA learned that targeting women at registration for the farming program wasn’t enough to increase productivity and incomes. Women needed to be integrated into the contract process with firms buying the crops. Involving women in the contract signing ensured women would receive the assistance firms provided and feel obligated to fulfill the terms of the contract.
After the program, women who participated saw a 30.1 percent increase in yield. Women’s incomes increased 64 percent, and men’s 81 percent. Irwin added that we know that targeting women can amplify the benefits of a program by extending gains to the family and beyond. When women and girls earn increased income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families.
While the program in Zimbabwe had no official mandate to integrate gender, but ACDI/VOCA is committed to gender integration and realized that that to achieve project objectives, women needed to be fully integrated into program activities. Irwin’s experience will help other implementers confront women’s vital role in developing a country's agriculture.
Learn more about our cross-cutting work regarding Gender Integration and Women’s Empowerment.
Read our company position statement about the importance of gender integration for smart development.
Pictured at left: Bronwyn Irwin speaks about gender-integrated programming at Aid and International Development Forum (AIDF) panel at the Washington Convention Center.