A high-level event on gender responsiveness in policymaking and implementation goes back to basics.
On 13 September 2017, researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in partnership with the Tanzanian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF) and Tanzania Civil Society Forum on Climate Change (FORUMCC), had the privilege of presenting findings of a recent study on gender integration in agriculture and natural resource policies to Members of Parliament (MPs). A key lesson was learnt during the process: gender is still a controversial topic for policymakers in the country.
Indeed, mixed emotions followed the presentation that articulated the findings on gender integration and gender budgets in Tanzania's natural resource, agriculture and climate change policies, strategies, and implementation plans.
The opposition shadow minister for agriculture, who is also a lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam, stood up and cleared the air amidst an emotionally heated debate that followed the presentation of the findings of the study, saying:
What I see is a scientific study that clearly shows the findings about our national policies. It shows what we have done well and the gaps that need to be filled. What we need to do is develop and implement strategies to close the highlighted gaps, and I think [that] is clear.”
The first part of the discussion was a divide in perceptions between the men that spoke first, querying the relevance and necessity of gender responsiveness, and women who then voiced support for the need to address gender issues in climate change adaptation, agriculture, and policy, and the benefits it can bring. The mixed reactions in the house as MPs spoke, one after the other, were a clear sign that there was less knowledge about gender than we, as researchers, had anticipated during the preparation and as we presented the findings. Indeed, previous CCAFS studies (on policies and gender budgeting and on gender considerations in agriculture and natural resource management policies) had already pointed out the need for creating gender awareness among policymakers in the country.
A Member of Parliament giving his response on the presentation. Photo: P. Muchunguzi (IITA)
Contending the importance of gender and the connection between gender and climate change
The male honourables took the floor first, three in a row, and expressed their disappointment with what, in their opinion, was less smart research and an irrelevant presentation. A few excerpts illustrate the atmosphere in the room:
Gender and climate mitigation are not related. We expected you to address the issue of climate change and not just gender. You would have done better to tell us the causes of climate change and what you have done about it”, the first speaker emphasized, his disappointment evident in his voice.
First, how do you expect government to prioritize investing money in gender and not infrastructure? Secondly, technical personnel that make our policies have expertize and cannot make a mistake of equating gender to women as your findings suggest.”
“How did you select the sample for this study? For example, Njombe and Lushoto are not affected by climate change because they still receive enough rainfall, drought is not an issue in those places."
The debate became heated and diverted from the focus of the study. The opposition shadow minister for agriculture brought the house to order and pleaded with the MPs in attendance to focus on the findings of the study. Referring to the policy briefs that had been distributed, she explained that this was valid research, conducted on Tanzania policies that are named and known to them. She presented an analysis of her own that showed the number of policies that provided for gender well, those that did not, and those that did not provide a budget even when they had integrated gender. She emphasized that the discussion was not about agreeing with the findings or rejecting them but what they needed to do was think of strategies that can rectify the situation.
The shadow minister for agriculture guiding the house to refocus on the study findings. Photo: P. Muchunguzi (IITA)
She was followed by the woman representative for Geita region, who spiced up the discussion further by giving practical examples from the field:
I come from Geita, and this what I see: there is food shortage during the drought and men migrate to townships for up to eight months. Women shoulder the responsibility of feeding their families, including looking for fuel wood or charcoal and water. Under such circumstances, women should not only be sensitized about climate change and environment but should be supported [to] improve the livelihoods of their families… Even in southern Tanzania, men own land and cashew trees but women do all the work on the farm. Men show up at selling and demand the cash that has been earned…Gender matters in every way, and we should be working to correct mistakes in our policies.”
Towards a harmonized understanding that gender matters
The discussions that followed suggested that participants were slowly appreciating that gender mattered and should be considered in policymaking. Again, most inputs were from male MPs. One male MP followed up on the discussions:
In that case, this presentation should have highlighted how each gender group has been adapting to climate change and what the constraints are.”
Another male MP from Lushoto explained that contrary to what earlier speakers had said, Lushoto had changed a great deal, and people there are experiencing impacts of climate change. He cited examples that included erratic rainfall patterns, lowering water tables, increased temperatures, and extreme weather events.
Another male MP questioned why districts were not effectively implementing the 10% commitment of their own budget source to gender (5% to youth and 5% to women) and suggested that they needed to put in place enforcement mechanisms to ensure this is done. However, as the study findings indicated, although realizing district commitment would be a good start, the amount is so small that it might not cause significant change.
The discussions were followed up by clarifications from MALF and FORUMCC representatives. FORUMCC is a civil society platform convened to stimulate cross-sector dialogue regarding climate change. Effort was invested in clarifying and emphasizing the relevance of gender in climate adaptation and food security, clarifying what climate change is (and is not), and giving examples of climate change impacts experienced in different areas of the country, especially those districts listed by MPs as examples.
Mr. Fazal Issa of FORUMCC explaining that climate change was more than drought and giving examples of impacts experienced in areas that MPs thought were not affected. Photo: P. Muchunguzi (IITA)
Through the committee chair, members of Parliament requested the partners (MALF, IITA and FORUMCC) to organize a capacity building session for them in the next parliamentary session in November 2017. MPs requested training on climate change, food security, gender, and environment and how these topics are interrelated.
FORUMCC will follow through the parliamentary protocols and arrange a training that will be implemented jointly with MALF.
The event, processes and actors
This policy engagement event took place on 13 September 2017. It was attended by a total of 35 members of the Tanzania Parliament and nine non-parliamentarians. MPs included members of the standing committee on agriculture, the environmental committee, the budget committee, the constitution, legal and governance committee, and representatives from the parliamentary youth and women groups.
The engagement started earlier in the day with the research team going to the parliamentary cafeteria and talking to some Members of Parliament as they took a break, both to lobby and follow up with key members to attend the meeting as well as briefing them on what the meeting was about. Although the effort paid off in terms of attendance, it is important that contact is maintained until Members of Parliament commit on some actions to change the situation – and this is the beauty of local partnerships that are most suited to do this follow up.
Findings from the policy and budget analyses that were presented to the MPs are available in the following presentation.