Time diaries: How a methodology change empowered a community and sparked the fight against GBV
This post was written by Rodrigo Abed, Technical Research Specialist, NAFAKA II, ACDI/VOCA Tanzania
“We would let our husbands know about all the money we get out of a business. However, he decides what should be done with it. If we ask about the money, we would be beaten or cursed at.” – Female farmer, Tanzania
When the USAID-funded Feed the Future NAFAKA II program, led by ACDI/VOCA, embarked on a time-use study of its mechanization grants to members of a producer organization in Tanzania’s Southern Highlands, our staff did not expect to receive feedback about gender-based violence. Yet, when we began working with the 30 couples who had agreed to track their time in diaries, such stories began to emerge. We had set out to measure the effect of an agricultural intervention, but now found ourselves with an important question: How should a market systems development project address the issue of gender-based violence?
Mechanization levels are low in Tanzania, particularly among rural women, who constitute an estimated 52 percent of the country’s agricultural labor. For two years, NAFAKA has been providing mechanization grants to producer organizations, with specific targets among female producers, as part of a strategy to increase overall agriculture productivity, narrow the agriculture productivity gender gap, and reduce women’s drudgery.
Time-use patterns in agricultural households
In 2017, NAFAKA increased its emphasis on evidence-based learning and adaptation, using research to assess whether interventions were having the desired effect. As part of this approach, in 2018 we conducted a study to measure the impact of the mechanization grants on time saved and income generated. Our initial design was a large-scale survey of all grant recipients. However, due to resource constraints, we adapted the methodology to be an in-depth assessment of the impact on one producer organization. The adapted study design meant more work for NAFAKA staff, but allowed more flexibility and the opportunity to closely interact with farmers. As the methodology developed, we saw an opportunity to also assess the gender gap in time allocation (intra-household dynamics).
NAFAKA selected a producer organization that had received a rice thresher and planned to involve project staff in long-term data collection. We worked with participants to record their activities over a full agriculture year (we conducted four rounds of data collection, selecting specific seasons) to determine how much time was saved as a result of using the machine.
In learning to complete the diaries for the study, the participating couples became our enumerators. We asked farmers to record their time-use data for a seven-day period, and taught them to categorize their daily activities into specific categories (e.g., household chores, social activities, farming activities). During each week of data collection, NAFAKA staff conducted data quality assessments to ensure the couples understood the concepts and classified activities appropriately. We then collected the diaries and engaged the participants in discussions about their experiences, challenges, and learning.
An unexpected opportunity to address gender-based violence
Something unexpected happened during the study. The close interaction between the members of the producer organization and NAFAKA staff generated increased trust. Women began sharing personal information, such as instances of intimate partner violence and gender-specific inequalities. They saw the exercise as an opportunity to share information with outsiders—people they trusted but were not members of their community structure—who could help them. They said they did not discuss these issues in their villages because sharing these concerns were embarrassing and frowned upon, and, importantly, because women were not believed over men:
“We have tried to get help from the village government. Men normally would pay off the people who are supposed to help, so some women don’t report these cases anymore. It is also embarrassing to sue your husband, since he might be a prominent figure in the community.” – Female farmer, Tanzania
The study produced helpful findings about gender gaps, such as that depending on the agricultural season, women work 2–3 additional hours per day compared to their male counterparts, and that the largest portion of their working time is dedicated to domestic and care work (60 percent), while men spend 23 percent of their time on the same tasks. Gender and social norms about the perception of men’s and women’s roles in society perpetuate these gaps:
"If a man is seen helping his wife with household chores, he would be perceived as weak by others [men and women] who would tell him that his wife is controlling him." – Female farmer, Tanzania
For a project whose staff’s expertise is deeply rooted in agriculture and market systems, it came as quite a surprise to hear about gender-based violence and other gender issues. Our first step was to seek support by connecting those affected with projects that directly work to address gender-based violence and provide support services. NAFAKA also reached out to local government authorities to push for the creation of a gender desk at the local police station, in line with the Tanzanian government’s gender-based violence support system.
We also reflected on what we could do as a project. We realized that gender-based violence occurs, to a large extent, because of gender and social norms that can also be addressed within agriculture projects. In areas where NAFAKA is working, women are perceived as less capable of doing certain activities, they are confined to reproductive and non-remunerated work, and their decision-making ability is restricted, particularly over income. A combination of activities and approaches are necessary to tackle this problem, so NAFAKA is implementing a three-stage approach:
- Providing women’s empowerment training (including for men) to challenge the pre-established roles in society
- Increasing the number of women in capacity-building training
- Promoting greater participation of women in leadership positions in producer organizations
NAFAKA has turned a resource limitation into an opportunity to expose a hidden reality and address the roots of a problem that marginalizes women in rural areas. The time diaries and close engagement with project staff had an unintended consequence that is leading the way to a paradigm shift. Farmers are now aware of how they use their time. This, in itself, has empowered them. Male household heads are recognizing the amount of activity women do and have begun to assist in sharing responsibilities. Moreover, couples are reporting to staff that they are discussing time management in their households, which has reportedly brought families closer and increased joint decision making and collaboration in the household.
In our resources sidebar, you may find an excerpt from the time diaries we used with participants to demonstrate the kinds of information we gathered in this process. This excerpt should not be used on its own, as it does not include every section or the guidance on how to complete it. We invite you to share your questions about the methodology, or your experiences using similar methods, in the comments below. We also encourage interested readers to reach out to the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment Program team.