Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Advancing Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture: Sharing Our Vision

Women’s empowerment is a common term in development with an uncommon number of interpretations—organizational and programmatic approaches to promoting women’s empowerment can vary significantly by sector and the frameworks that guide them. As we embark on the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program, our success hinges on sharing with our partners the vision of creating conditions for empowered women in agriculture.

AWE’s vision of empowerment combines USAID’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy’s  definition of female empowerment – women’s and girls’ “power to act freely, exercise their rights, and fulfill their potential as full and equal members of society” – with Kabeer’s definition and the “expansion of [women’s and girls’] ability to make strategic life choices within their households and their communities in a context where this ability was previously denied.” [1]

In agriculture and food systems around the world, persistent and systematic inequalities in resources, power, and roles disproportionately affect women and girls; this limits their opportunities and development, and contributes to global hunger and poverty.[2] Supporting women’s and girls’ ability to fulfill their potential and make strategic life choices within agriculture and food systems requires that we closely examine those systems, and identify where women and girls face key empowerment gaps.

The Feed the Future Feed the Future Gender Integration Framework (GIF)[3] outlines seven key domains for achieving women’s empowerment in agriculture. These domains help missions and projects prioritize and track gender equality activities over time:


AWE works with USAID missions and partners to ensure they have the knowledge, practices, and resources to understand and apply the GIF domains into all stages of their work, track their progress, and share their results – one of the ways to track progress is the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), which measures five of the seven domains. Through this process, missions and partners can not only increase women’s participation, productivity, profit, and benefit in agricultural systems, but more importantly, enhance program effectiveness and sustainability.

So, what does this look like in practice? Let’s think about the domain of Time Use/ Time Poverty.

Women make up approximately 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. However, because of cultural norms, they remain the primary domestic caregivers and caretakers of household. The combined loads of productive work and care work cause many women to experience time poverty which , negatively affects their  health, economic options, and community engagement.[4] This disparity is compounded by women’s limited access to time-saving solutions, such as labor-saving technologies, services, and infrastructure. So, what does this look like in practice? Let’s think about the domain of Time Use/ Time Poverty.

Deliberately programming to reduce time constraints on women and girls remains a challenge. Agriculture programs can tackle this challenge through mindful and deliberate approaches, such as considering women’s workloads and availability when scheduling meetings or trainings events, and planning activities that involve their time. Programs can also explore ways to encourage men to participate in caretaking activities and share domestic responsibilities. It is important to monitor changes in women’s workload and time use to ensure they are not overburdened; or assess how newly introduced technologies and practices affect women’s time and workloads.

The term time poverty first appeared in literature on poverty in the late 1970s in reference to women’s work burdens being characterized as time-consuming and unavoidable. Since then, research has acknowledged that time poverty is a critical gender dimension of poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, not only because of the extent of women's work burdens, but also their long working hours and the trade-offs they are forced to make due to competing claims on their time.

(Source: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4741e.pdf)


A good example is the time use study Feed the Future Nafaka (grain in Kiswahili) program in Tanzania is implementing. The Feed the Future Tanzania Nafaka Activity, funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA is using a CLA approach to improve their gender activities. This year the program has developed a time use study where male and female farmers are recording in journals how they use their time throughout the cropping season and how (or if) that informs their decision making. To date, results show that women bear a higher work burden but lack financial control—women spend 60% of their working time in unpaid activities (domestic and care work) while men only spend 23% of their time in the same tasks. The study is in its final phases and the project is developing activities in response to the data and roundtable discussions; however, the act of journaling itself has already raised awareness about women’s time poverty and fostered intra-household dialogues about equitable work burdens. NAFAKA also is continuing working to increase women’s participation in producer organizations and offering trainings on women’s empowerment.


What can AWE do to advance the mission?

AWE uses as systems approach to incorporate awareness of the GIF domains into agriculture systems work, identify root causes, and leverage points and influencers to create improvement in the domains, track progress, share lessons, and use feedback loops for responsive and adaptive implementation. For example, to enable programs to address women’s time constraints, the AWE can incorporate a gender and time-use lens into market assessments, or collect data and develop recommendations for market-based approaches to increasing women’s access to labor-saving technologies.

We offer an overview of our support options for USAID Missions and programs in AWE’s Technical Services Menu. With each partnership, we will be a step closer to accomplishing the vision of empowered women in agriculture.

[1] USAID. 2012. Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy. https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1865/GenderEqualityPolicy_0.pdf

[2] See U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy 2017–2021 (September 2016). https://www.usaid.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1867/USG-Global-Food-Security-Strategy-2016.pdf; Global Food Security Strategy Technical Guidance Advancing Gender Equality and Female Empowerment (2018). https://www.feedthefuture.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/GFSS_TechnicalGuidance_Gender.pdf ; and The Sustainable Development Goals Report (2018) https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/report/2018

[3] The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) tracks women’s empowerment and gender parity across five domains (production, resources, income, leadership, and time use). See http://www.ifpri.org/project/weai and https://www.agrilinks.org/events/increasing-feed-future-impacts-through-targeted-gender-integration

[4] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2011. 2010/2011 The State of Food and Agriculture: Women in Agriculture – Closing the Gender Gap in Development. Rome: Italy. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i2050e.pdf

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