Chiara Kovarik, IFPRI, presents on the WEAI Global Synthesis Report
Guest contributors: Chiara Kovarik and Shalini Roy, IFPRI
On Wednesday, June 18th, IFPRI hosted a one-day workshop in Dhaka, Bangladesh, entitled “Gender and Agriculture: A Focus on Bangladesh,” attended by more than 90 participants. The workshop included presentations on multi-country agriculture and gender projects, with an emphasis on research results from Bangladesh.
Chaired by Dr. Agnes Quisumbing, a senior research fellow in the Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division at IFPRI and co-Principal Investigator for the Gender, Agriculture & Assets Project (GAAP) and BMZ project, the workshop was sponsored by United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ); the GAAP, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM); and IFPRI.
The day was broken into three technical sessions: one on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), another on GAAP, and the third on women and climate change. All session Chairs and the Chief Guest, Dr. Shelina Afroza, Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, were all prominent Bangladeshi women from the Government of Bangladesh, civil society organizations, or the international development arena.
Workshop panel, from L-R: Dr. Akhter Ahmed, Chief of Party, Policy Research and Strategy Support Program, IFPRI-Dhaka; Chief Guest, Dr. Shelina Afroza, Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock; and Dr. Agnes Quisumbing, senior research fellow at IFPRI and workshop Chair
Throughout the day, important findings were presented to attendees. The Chief Guest, Dr. Afroza, reminded participants that fisheries and livestock are often excluded from discussions on agricultural policies, whereas they are central to rural Bangladeshi livelihoods and Bangladeshi diets. Other highlights include the following:
The presentations generated a stimulating discussion on a range of topics. Dr. Anwara Begum of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies commented that one distinct contribution of the WEAI was the attention paid to women’s time use, because women’s workload is often neglected by development agencies. She also pointed out that gender norms differ according to one’s position in the family and society and that these norms are upheld by both men and women. Mothers-in-law, for example, were singled out as perpetuating patriarchal attitudes in Bangladesh. Ms. Riti Ibrahim, former Secretary in the Government of Bangladesh who was responsible for the last national census, commented on how time use surveys could be better adapted to capture men’s and women’s workloads, by asking men and women about one weekend day and one working day.
While discussing the GAAP projects, Dr. Nazneen Ahmed of BIDS, pointed out that control of resources and mobility are very nuanced. The following questions arose during this discussion: Is increasing women’s control over livestock empowering or exploitative if women still have limited control of generated income but now must take care of livestock as well as household chores? What does mobility mean, if women themselves prefer to stay at home to avoid stigma from sociocultural norms of female seclusion? Implications for young girls were also discussed; Dr. Begum commented that even until very recently, the girl child was regarded of lower value than livestock. Farah Kabir, Country Director of ActionAid Bangladesh, commented that even the concept of women’s exclusive ownership is transient, because a woman’s jewelry, even if considered her own, is the first to go in times of crisis, and then is given to her daughter upon marriage.
Despite the progress in Bangladesh towards improving social indicators, workshop participants agreed that much remains to be done. Deep-seated patriarchal values—which many attendees are working to combat—are aptly captured in Bangla sayings such as “The unfortunate man loses his cattle; the fortunate man loses his wife” or “Educating a girl is like watering another man’s field.” Development interventions may increase women’s income and assets, but for women to be truly empowered, gender norms in Bangladesh need to change at the community and societal levels.
*Workshop presentations are available at this link.