8 films, 4 women, a 30-year-old problem: Where we are in gender research for agricultural development

ILRI Film Page on the web

Selection of filmed interviews of women on gender research for agricultural development, available on the ILRI Film page n the web (blip.tv screen capture).

To celebrate the centenary of International Women’s Day, 8 March 2011, ILRI produced and web-posted on 8 March the following eight very short filmed interviews of four women on where we are in gender-related research for agricultural development in poor countries.

The interviews were made at a recent conference, ‘Gender and Market-Oriented Agriculture: From Research to Practice’ (31 January–2 February 2011), held at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and organized by ILRI and a project conducted by ILRI on behalf of the Ethiopian government: Improving Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian Farmers (IPMS).

Can complex gender issues be translated into enabling policies for women?
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that if we do not manage to find ways to place our understanding of gender issues in the context of environment, economy, agriculture, education and health, our well-meaning research might end up doing more harm than good. While gender is now on the agenda of every government and every big development project in the world, we don’t yet know what policies manage to empower women or how to implement them.

Evidence is needed to improve women’s development
Seblewongel Deneke (Canadian International Development Agency [CIDA]) says there are still misconceptions about rural women in developing countries, such as the idea that most farmers are men. The evidence that ILRI is providing will help to address these misconceptions.

Gender mainstreaming is just beginning
Seblewongel Deneke (CIDA) says that although many people are now talking about mainstreaming gender by including gender issues in research and policymaking, new laws around gender in Ethiopia are rarely enforced and research projects find it hard to expand capacity within extension workers and trainers and so meet the complex needs of women.

Rural women miss opportunities due to heavy household duties
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation (ETC) Netherlands) argues that gender research still struggles to help women manage their household and childraising work. Without targeting training in these areas, women will continue to miss out.

Women farmers held back by traditions
Jemimah Njuki (ILRI) explains that two facts have hindered women’s development in agriculture: lack of ability to inherit land and other rules stemming from traditional cultures and the fact that most policymakers are men; changes are now occurring in both areas.

Training men and women farmers together could help both make more money
Susan MacMillan (ILRI) says that when businesses become profitable, they tend to be taken over by men. This is one reason why women find it hard to make money from agriculture. Training male and female household members together may allow both to see that it’s in everyone’s interest to reduce gender inequities so that households can improve their income and nutrition.

30 Years of gender research—Are the conversations still the same?
Anne Waters-Bayer (Ecology, Technology, Culture Foundation [ETC] Netherlands) says the gender challenges faced by agricultural scientists in the 1980s are, unfortunately, similar to those we face today. Many women are still living in material want, struggling to send their children to school, to get good health care and to generate and control an income from their agricultural work.

For more information, visit ILRI’s Gender and Agriculture blog or IPMS blog.

AgriGender 2011 logo

A tribute to the women in our world: ILRI celebrates International Women’s Day

Each year around the world, International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organizations, governments and women's groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues. The United Nations theme for IWD 2010 is: Equal rights, equal opportunities: Progress for all Celebrating Women ILRI organized numerous events throughout the day to create awareness of the importance of today's woman. 69 local school girls from Loreto Convent Limuru and Cardinal Otunga secondary schools, interested in pursuing a research career, visited ILRI's nairobi campus. ILRI WILDER women (Women in Livestock for Development – East Region) together with ILRI’s female graduate fellows gave inspiring advice to the aspiring female scientists. Through her eyes Set in rural Malawi, this 6-minute film follows the life of Mary, a widow with 8 children. Her struggles are struggles of millions of women throughout the world. A film from World Agroforestry Centre and ILRI for International Women's Day 2010 [blip.tv ?posts_id=3333721&dest=-1]

Women in science: Sheila Ommeh

The first in a series of articles during the month of March celebrating the achievements of women in science
Each year around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. Hundreds of events occur not just on this day but throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organizations, governments and women’s groups around the world choose different themes each year that reflect global and local gender issues.

Meet Sheila Ommeh
Sheila Ommeh is a thirty two year old PhD student from Kenya working on chicken genetics at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Ommeh grew up in her early years on the slopes of Mount Elgon in western Kenya where indigenous chicken is a popular staple food for the rural community. She observed that local breeds are reared by small scale farmers who are mostly women and children.

Unfortunately, viral diseases such as Newcastle disease and the looming threat of bird flu have threatened livelihoods leading to malnourishment, hunger and poverty.
Ommeh has seen the importance of having disease resistant breeds that may help in poverty alleviation. Her current work on chicken genetics is helping her to achieve this.

Currently her PhD is focusing on the study of candidate genes in different chicken populations for resistance, tolerance or susceptibility to chicken viral diseases such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease. She is ambitious to adopt a genetic control towards these viral diseases that currently do not have an effective cure or vaccine.

‘One of my longer term scientific goals is to reduce Africa’s hunger and poverty through a genetically improved chicken breed that will be resistant to disease and easily adopted by the rural community’ says Ommeh.

Ommeh wins AWARD
African women are underrepresented in agricultural research institutions. While African women produce 60 to 80 per cent of the crops that feed their continent, they make up less than 20 per cent of Africa’s agricultural researchers. Many believe women need to have a strong voice not just on the farm, but also in the research laboratories and field sites where new options are being developed and tested to help smallholders crank up their food production.

In August 2008, Ommeh was among 60 African women scientists selected from more than 900 candidates in nine countries to receive an “African Women in Agricultural Research & Development” (AWARD) Fellowship for 2008-2010. AWARD is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the Gender and Diversity (G&D) program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

AWARD fellowships aim to increase the skills, visibility and contributions to research and development of women working in critically important areas of agricultural science in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

‘This opportunity came at the right time in my career,” says Ommeh.

‘It will prepare me for post-PhD challenges. I hope to access a myriad of learning opportunities.

‘I’m confident I’ll gain useful communications skills, among others, from this mentorship program.

‘One of the personal things I am ambitious to achieve is a work-life balance, which is important for both me and my family,” says Ommeh, a mother of one.

Sheila Ommeh

International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Nairobi, KENYA
Telephone: +254 (20) 422 3328

ILRI women in science: What’s changed this International Women’s Day?

8 March is International Women’s Day. ILRI women share their thoughts on what has changed for women in science over the last decade.
Celebrated on 8 March every year, International Women’s Day (IWD) connects women around the world, inspiring them to achieve their full potential (http://www.internationalwomensday.com/). Three ILRI women share their thoughts on this year’s International Women’s Day.

Zimbabwean veterinary scientist Siboniso Moyo

New book on livestock in developing countriesSiboniso (‘Boni’) Moyo, an animal scientist from Zimbabwe, is ILRI’s regional representative in Southern Africa, based in Maputo, Mozambique. Boni spent her youth fighting for her country’s freedom, which she was forced to leave at an early age. She managed to obtain an MSc in animal husbandry from the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in 1984 and went on to obtain a PhD in animal science from the University of Pretoria in 1997. She has spent the last 22 years conducting livestock research in Zimbabwe and the region. Married to Polex, a fellow Zimbabwean veterinary surgeon she met in Russia, she is raising three extraordinary daughters and loves making a difference among the poor in her community.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘The number of women in senior management positions in public-sector science has increased. Although their numbers are still too small, this is an improvement over the situation a decade ago.

‘This should encourage young girls to take up science careers. They now have role models. And these women in senior management are now in position to influence policies for gender equity.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘To women in science I say: Encourage girls to take up science in high schools so that they can be enrolled for science subjects at the tertiary level. Mentor the young to grow in this field!

‘To the women in agriculture in the villages and the cities, I say: Keep up your good work! Your contribution is vital for food security and critical for the survival of each and every human being, family and nation. Use this day to acknowledge yourself and to encourage another woman to rise up to the challenges you and others have faced.

Ethiopian plant scientist Segenet Kelemu

Segenet Kelemu, Director of the BecA-ILRI HubSegenet Kelemu, a molecular plant pathologist from Ethiopia, is research director at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Platform, based in Nairobi, Kenya. Segenet graduated with a PhD degree in molecular plant pathology from Kansas State University, USA in 1989, and is a graduate of Montana State University, USA, where she obtained an MSc in plant pathology/genetics in 1984. Before joining ILRI, she was a senior scientist at the International Centre for Tropical Agricultural Research (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia.

Segenet enjoys reading, spending time with her family and investing in the education of resource-poor and very bright young girls. She is married to Arjan Gijsman, a soil scientist and computer modelling expert, and has one daughter, Finote.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘Things are changing positively for women, slowly but surely. Over the last decade we’ve seen an increased number of women leading research teams, as well as more women in senior management positions.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘Women have penetrated and excelled in fields that were largely perceived as male-only areas. The future for women is a lot brighter and lots of progress has been made around the world. We have elected women presidents and leaders in Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Germany and Liberia and many women now hold top positions in universities, companies and national governments.

‘The acceptance and appreciation of female leaders, by both men and women, represents positive change and progress. Those few women who have made it to the top have demonstrated their effectiveness in their jobs. That is paving the way for other women starting down that road.’

Canadian agricultural economist Patti Kristjanson

Patti Kristjanson, Leader, Innovation WorksPatti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist from Winnipeg, one of the coldest places in Canada, leads ILRI’s Innovations Works, based Nairobi, Kenya.

Married to Frank, a fellow scientist at the World Agroforestry Centre, she has a teenage son and daughter, the latter of whom is already on the path to self-determination.

What do you see as the biggest change for women in science over the last decade?

‘The biggest positive change is that there’s beginning to be some critical mass in female scientists working on sustainable poverty issues in the developing world.

What’s your International Women’s Day message to the world?

‘Women in science tend to understand the power of dialogue, where diverse people work together towards common understanding. Scientific debate, on the other hand, is oppositional and assumes one person is right.

‘Dialogue opens the possibility of reaching a better solution than any of the original solutions. Debate defends one’s own position as the best solution and excludes other solutions.

‘Women scientists can and will lead the global dialogue on innovative and collaborative solutions to sustainable poverty.

Improving women’s lives and livelihoods through livestock

ILRI is facilitating a global consultation to improve lives and livelihoods through women and livestock. This consultation aims to bring together men and women who are passionate about fighting poverty and improving women’s lives.

Patti Kristjanson is leading the Global Challenge Dialogue on Women and Livestock.

Why have you organized a global consultation on women and livestock?

‘Because it’s time to bring together the best and brightest minds and experience from all over the world to increase the awareness of the importance of livestock to the poor – it is often the only asset a poor woman has.

‘The goal is to come up with creative new collaborations and solutions that empower women and enhance their incomes through innovations related to this key asset.’

Marking International Women’s Day: Thursday 8 March 2007

Marking International Women's Day: Thursday 8 March 2007
This year's theme for International Women's Day is "Ending Impunity for violence against women and girls".

Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. No one can dispute the evidence. Violence takes a devastating toll on the lives of women, their families and society as a whole. Gender equality and human rights for all are essential to advancing development, peace and security.


 International Women's Day 2007
Take action to end impunity for violence against women and girls

•   Violence against women is the most common but least punished crime in the world.

•   It is estimated that between 113 million and 200 million women are demographically "missing." They have been  the victims of infanticide (boys are preferred to girls) or have not received the same amount of food and medical attention as their brothers and fathers.

• The number of women forced or sold into prostitution is estimated worldwide at anywhere between 700,000 and 4,000,000 per year. Profits from sex slavery are estimated at seven to twelve billion US dollars per year. • Globally, women between the age of fifteen and forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die as a result of male violence than through cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war combined.

• At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her. Domestic violence is the largest form of abuse of women worldwide, irrespective of  region, culture, ethnicity, education, class and religion.

• It is estimated that more than two million girls are genitally mutilated per year, a rate of one girl every fifteen seconds.

• Systematic rape is used as a weapon of terror in many of the world's conflicts. It is estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 women in Rwanda were raped during the 1994 genocide.

• Studies show the increasing links between violence against women and HIV and demonstrate that HIV-infected women are more likely to have experienced violence, and that victims of violence are at higher risk of HIV infection.



Source: Vlachovà, Marie and Biason, Lea, Eds. (2004) Women in an Insecure World: Violence Against Women – Facts, Figures and Analysis. Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces

Ending Violence Against Women: Advancing Development


“Violence against women has yet to receive the priority and resources needed at all levels to tackle it with the seriousness and visibility necessary”
                                                                 Secretary-General’s in-depth study on violence against women (2006)

To find out what ILRI is doing to address gender in Ethiopia click here

Ending violence against women is essential to advancing development. To mark International Women’s Day 2007, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) and other Nairobi-based Centers under the umbrella of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), visited the Nairobi Women’s hospital which runs a Gender Violence and Recovery Center (GVRC) for battered women and rape victims. The hospital was opened on 5 March 2001 and receives an average of 6-7 patients per day – most of them rape victims.

‘Ending Violence Against Women, is an initiative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). An interactive, multimedia online exhibit tells the stories of women throughout the world in their battle to bring equality and stop violence to women, as well as the efforts of the UNFPA and other like-minded NGOs in these endeavors.

For more information on International Women’s Day, including its origins, visit http://www.internationalwomensday.com/about.asp

International Women’s Day, 8 March 2006

Africa's women livestock farmers fulfill on Africa's renewal
To celebrate International Women's Day (http://www.internationalwomensday.com/) today, ILRI highlights a few of the major contributions made by Africa’s ‘WILD’ women—‘Women in Livestock Development’—to the continent’s renewal through economic, nutritional and environmental security.

Millions of women livestock farmers remain the majority of African farmers, the backbone of African agriculture, the food-security managers of African households, and the key to Africa’s renewal.

Why livestock? Because livestock ownership by women is more common than land ownership. Because even landless women are raising small domesticated animals to feed, clothe and educate their children. Because increasing women’s access to farm animals—the ‘living assets’ most commonly available to the poor worldwide—is a ready way to empower women otherwise severely marginalized.

African Women's Contribution to African Agriculture

A Fairer Deal for Women

Identifying the Real Farmer

Milk, Eggs and Meat

Women's Roles and Ownership of Assets

Increasing Assets in Women's Hands

Pro-Women Approaches to Technology Development and Selection

Women Farmers Uptake of Disease Control Methods

Women's Preferred Livestock: Income Distribution and Time Costs

Disease control: Protecting Women's Preferred Livestock

Women's Access to Technologies and Know-How

Vulnerability to Effects of Livestock Diseases

Click here for resource documents and further information

WILD Contributors: Susan MacMillan, Janice Njoroge, Grace Ndungu, Maria Mulindi, Christine Thuranira and Margaret Macdonald-Levy.