Gender issues: not a power struggle
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Ngomane, Tsakani. 1998. Gender issues: not a power struggle. Spore 78. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Ms Tsakani Ngomane is Director for Regional Services in the Department of Agriculture, Land and Environment of the Northern Province of South Africa. She sees a central role for agricultural home economists in the struggle for gender equity in her...
Ms Tsakani Ngomane is Director for Regional Services in the Department of Agriculture, Land and Environment of the Northern Province of South Africa. She sees a central role for agricultural home economists in the struggle for gender equity in her nation's agriculture. Currently vice-chair of CTA's Advisory Committee, she is a clear voice in the 'post-Lomé' debate about relationships between the 71 ACP States and the European Union after the existing Lomé Convention expires early in 2000. As we try to define future co-operation and partnership options for EU and ACP States, we must emphasise the important role that women can play in agriculture. Basically survivors, women are central to the agenda as the primary processors and labourers in a sector still dominated by men. We have to make gender mainstream, and establish gender-sensitive management as an integral part of agricultural development initiatives. The EU's 'Green Paper' of September 1997 gave several opportunities for change, referring to new instruments and partnerships, and to more active participation by non-governmental players. It embraced several complementary objectives, including combating poverty, promoting sustainable development and the progressive integration of ACP agriculture into the world economy. Whilst urging economic growth through competition and private sector development through regional integration and trade development, the Paper tried to merge economic, environmental and societal interests, while respecting various stages of development of the ACP States ? that is, it sought to differentiate. The response of the ACP Group, in the Libreville Declaration of November 1997, called for greater unity and solidarity, and a focus on three priority areas: growth, competitiveness and employment; social and cultural policies; and regional integration. The guiding principles were institutional support and capacity building; a gender sensitive approach; and sustainable environmental management. This strategic position was reaffirmed in May 1998 by the ACP Committee of Ambassadors, and the ACP NGO Forum. Both emphasised the eradication of poverty, the promotion of gender equity in project cycles, and of women as participants and beneficiaries. One fundamental area where differentiation is not ? or should cease to be ? an issue is women in development. Targets have been set to ensure that gender issues are fully mainstreamed by 2000, but they will not be reached unless deliberate steps are taken to implement the guiding principles of co-operation. Correcting the obvious: targetting women I believe that correcting the obvious gender imbalance is the major entry point for developing social and economic empowerment programmes. Women, especially resource-poor rural women, are important stakeholders. In the agricultural sector alone, their productive roles surpass by far their reproductive role. As invisible actors in development, their contribution to socio-economic development and poverty alleviation is poorly understood and most often deliberately under-estimated. Globally, women produce more than half the food that is grown. In sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, they produce up to 80% of basic foodstuffs but receive less than 5% of extension resources. The importance of targeting the real clients in agricultural development whether on primary production, resource conservation, training, technology development, land matters, and access to credit cannot be overemphasized. It's not a power struggle Development institutions need to move away from regarding gender issues as a power struggle between men and women, because that is not the case. The question to ask is who is the primary client, the end-user of services provided? Responding to this question will shape our staffing policies, capacity building programmes, allocation of agricultural resources (land, farm inputs), development of appropriate technologies and extension service delivery strategies. The Post-Lomé debate provides clear guidance and direction for gender mainstreaming. I recognise gender issues as a cross ? cutting phenomenon which should be approached holistically within the larger context of agricultural development in general. However, leading institutions in the sector need to take deliberate steps to involve women at all levels if the target of 2000 is to mean anything real. Let us see more capable women at the policy-making level, more women extension officers and home economists in research stations, training institutions, on the farms in the villages, at the processing plant, the boardroom, yes, at all levels of the agricultural chain. Women: help the men! To the women out there1, I urge you to reinforce our organisational efforts and assist our male partners in development to implement gender-sensitive management programmes. The agreements between the EU and ACP countries prove their commitment to ensure visibility of the role of women and of the potential to turn the poverty situation of ACP countries around. CTA's mandates in information management are aimed at improving access to technologies for increasing agricultural productivity, commercialisation, food security and rural development, as the Libreville Declaration stated. Central to these mandates is the empowerment of women in agriculture and rural development. We recently decided to strengthen CTA's work in the analysis of specific needs for supporting rural women's organisations, in the emphasis of extension services and in prioritising cooperation with institutions that have specific programmes on the role of women and poverty alleviation in agricultural and rural development. I hope this work addresses the issue of targeting the right client and will serve as an example for ACP national institutions to follow. 1 A recent readership survey showed that more than 90% of Spore readers are male.
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