Oxfam Novib has committed to promote women's empowerment and gender equality with local and national agricultural value chain stakeholders in Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria, (maize, rice, cocoa, and sesame) and to engage shrimp importers and retailers in the promotion of gender equality in supply chains in Bangladesh and Vietnam.
The key innovation is the Gender Action Learning System (GALS). GALS is an innovative, community-led, empowerment methodology for livelihoods improvement and gender justice, developed with experts and local partners under Oxfam Novib's Women's Empowerment, Mainstreaming And Networking program (WEMAN). GALS enables vulnerable men and women to articulate and communicate their visions of change, with targets and strategies, as well as a timeline to achieve their visions as part of a larger community. Individuals, households, groups and other stakeholders visualize their desired future and design a roadmap for win-win strategies to implement at household level and in the value chain.
GALS has proven to be effective for: 1) empowering the most vulnerable women and men in value chains to develop, implement and monitor their own progress towards gender equality and livelihoods improvement; 2) unseating gender norms, including in sensitive areas (land rights, gender-based violence, and economic decision making), that have existed for generations; and 3) engaging with, and gaining commitment from, powerful private sector stakeholders, and increasing collaboration, flow of quality goods, while promoting gender equality.
Within Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria, Oxfam will share good practice information from the current implementation of GALS and identify areas of collaboration and scaling up the promotion of gender equality in value chains. In Bangladesh and Vietnam, Oxfam will coordinate adaptation and GALS capacity development with stakeholders in the shrimp value chain to empower vulnerable stakeholders, and engage private sector stakeholders to increase social and environmental responsibility in shrimp importers and retailers in consumption countries.
The key methodology of GALS will be adapted to the local context, taking farmers, workers, traders, suppliers, and other stakeholders through the following stages:
Stage 1: Participatory mapping of power relations, livelihoods, and gender inequalities within the value chains by engaged communities (Africa: Q1-Q2 2012. Asia: 2013).
Stage 2: Community-led action research through step-by-step visual analysis with different vulnerable stakeholder groups to identify poverty and gender issues and change strategies at each level (Africa: Q3-Q4 2012-2014. Asia: 2013-2015).
Stage 3: Value chain stakeholders are engaged in the identification, negotiation, and implementation of change strategies. Multi-stakeholder negotiation events focus on the mutual interests and collective strategies to address concerns in the value chains, as well as at household and community level (Africa: 2013-2014. Asia: 2014-2015).
Stage 4: Sustainable integration of gender action learning by all stakeholders into respective business development services, agricultural training, management information systems, supply chain management, or CSR initiatives (Africa: 2014. Asia: 2015).
The initiative in Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria focuses on integrating good participatory practices in interventions of local and national civil society organizations, private stakeholders in the value chain, service providers, and government agencies.
The initiative in Bangladesh and Vietnam builds on the introduction of a new private sector code of conduct through the ISEAL compliant (and multi-stakeholder verified) certification mechanism: the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). This standard aims at the major supplying countries to North-Western Europe. The community-led GALS will be integrated in support services and supply chain management strategies, along with the development of selective buying practices from small shrimp farms eligible to being certified against social and environmental criteria, such as ASC. This provides a complementary approach to address poverty, social and gender constraints as essential strategies for upgrading and compliance to the standard.
The contribution of women within major agricultural value chains and their importance in supplying national and international markets with products such as textiles, coffee, cocoa, and shrimp has increased significantly over the past few decades. However, women are often marginalized or excluded where most profits are made along the value chain. Even where enterprises use ethical codes, gender inequality is reinforced based on stereotypes. Formal jobs are often reserved for men, while most women are found in high-risk and informal work. In Uganda, for example, it is estimated that women are responsible for about 80 percent of the production, harvesting, and manual hulling of coffee, while typically their male family members own the land and control the income (Scholer, M, nd). In the shrimp sector in Bangladesh, women, because of prevailing gender norms, are likely to be more affected than men by poor working conditions and violation of labor rights, conflicts about land and environmental degradation (dTS, 2006). Peer pressure further restrains men from contributing to household welfare.
Value chain development (VCD) has been increasingly promoted in recent years as a methodology for combining economic growth and poverty reduction, and also has considerable potential for empowering women. Most current approaches to VCD however: 1) have mixed results in facilitating market access for the poorest as benefits are often felt by the 'better-off' poor while women at the base of the pyramid are marginalized; 2) focus on technology and crops at the cost of addressing poverty and gender constraints, which does not sufficiently account for complex livelihood systems; and 3) often fail to influence private sector behavior toward more sustainable and equitable 'win-win' outcomes for all stakeholders.
The 'Mapping the Roads to Change' initiative seeks to directly promote women's empowerment within the value chain.