What does "taking a gender transformative approach" really mean?

Gender norms and attitudes are reflected upon in this story, which tells the tale about a CCAFS and WorldFish research project in Bangladesh. Photo: B. Mahalder (WorldFish)

I had just arrived at our training venue in Dhaka and watched as the manager stood at the top of the stairs, violently screaming orders at the woman rushing around to help me. When I expressed my distaste for his behavior, especially on my behalf, he smiled and explained why he felt he could treat her like that. “Don’t worry”, he said, “she’s just the cleaning lady”.

A few days later, the research assistants we are working with to implement the study were struggling to learn one particular research tool. One of the few women in the group bravely attempted to facilitate the session but it was not an easy task. Smirking, one of the men observing the exercise pointedly said to us, “this is what you get as a result of affirmative action”, as if the failure of the exercise was her fault and an obvious consequence of involving women in the research.

The irony that both of these incidents occurred as we conducted training for a study investigating power relations between and among men and women was not lost on me.

The study we are embarking on is entitled “Gender inequality: A barrier to household climate adaptation behavior” and is funded by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. Increasingly, climate change adaptation interventions are acknowledging women’s indispensable role in agriculture and attempting to involve women in such efforts. For example, WorldFish is delivering two ‘climate-smart agriculture’ innovations, fish cages and pond polyculture, to communities in southern Bangladesh to increase resilience in the face of climate risks, and targeting poor women as recipients.

However, it is not certain that these targeting efforts actually allow women to use or benefit from agricultural innovations or that targeting alone will increase gender equality. In fact, women-sensitive adaptation projects can have the opposite effect unless they are designed and implemented in a gender-sensitive (or even gender transformative) way.

Read the rest of the story on the WorldFish blog.

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Miranda Morgan is a Post-Doctoral Fellow (Gender Specialist), at WorldFish. Learn more about aquaculture and our projects by following us on Twitter and Facebook.