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Operationalizing Gender Integration for Food Security Programs

Moderator: Sylvia Cabus, Gender Advisor, USAID/Bureau for Food Security

Presenters: Penny Anderson, Food Security Director, Mercy Corps; Adugna Kebede, Director for Health, Nutrition and HIV&AIDS for Southern Africa Region, World Vision; Melvin Siwale, Deputy Country Manager, Land O’Lakes, Inc.

Content: There is a growing realization that gender equality and empowering women and girls are crucial to attaining food and nutrition security. It is also increasingly clear that better understanding the roles of women, men, girls, and boys in farming and marketing systems, in health systems, and in household and community decision-making can often serve to make food security and nutrition programs more cost efficient and achieve greater impact. As a result, organizations are actively exploring how best to incorporate gender into their programming.

Discussion: During this session, participants heard representatives from Title II grantee organizations share their experiences in integrating gender considerations into their food security efforts. Sylvia Cabus from BFS opened the session by discussing USAID’s commitment to including gender in all aspects of the value chain. Both men and women should be involved in research and programming, and M&E systems should be responsive to gender.

Penny Anderson explained how a Mercy Corps project in Tajikistan became successful by including women. To involve women, Mercy Corps first spoke with community and religious leaders, as the community needs to buy into the project for it to succeed and be sustainable. The project trained local women to teach health and nutrition in their community and provided them with food and seeds. They found that women began to feel more empowered and gained greater respect in their family.

Adugna Kebede (World Vision) spoke next on the Malawi WALA program’s success using a Care Group model in which at least 10 percent of participants needed to be men. Men learned more about the burdens females bear, and they started to become supportive in sanitation and nutrition issues. Women were also involved in VSL groups. This program was successful, but more could have been done and learned if a gender analysis had been done before the program started.

Melvin Siwale (Land O’Lakes) discussed a C-FAM project that distributed cows to households. This project, which focused on women and those affected with HIV/AIDS, formed women-led cooperatives of which at least 30 percent of the members must be women. The project also focused on teaching men about milk use and nutrition. Households signed contracts to agree on how the cow would be managed. In the end, 43 percent of local women participated, and the project was accepted by the community.

At the end, panelists answered questions on such topics as the importance of including the young and the old in projects, child care in the projects, involving community leaders, the issue of infrastructure, the barrier of tradition in some areas, the importance of including issues besides gender in meetings in order to get greater participation, and the importance of doing a gender analysis. Projects should not reinforce stereotypes and cause undesired harm.


The Way Forward: Recommendations were made in four areas


  • Need for better definitions for gender indicators. Gender indicators needs further development to track gender outcomes.
  • Further discuss the issue of women and land tenure, and what should be done

Information Sharing

  • Share examples of approaches for gender mapping and analysis that can be used in planning and design
  • Gather and share examples, case studies that show good gender impact indicators, not just sex indicator numbers, and also gender integration approaches- practical examples to help with implementation
  • Share gender indicators in use

Tools and Resources / Training

  • More training and tools are needed so that gender can be integrated at the design phase
  • How to use formative research to better understand special needs of women-headed households and successful strategies to work with them to counteract poverty and keep their households from falling into poverty
  • Better tools and training around gender indicators

Donor Policy and Practice

  • More information on funding available as pre-award allowable costs for these activities