HER+ is a research program to produce evidence-backed experience and data to support the gender equity policies being developed and implemented through gender researchers within CGIAR.
The overarching goal, and part of the GENDER Impact Platform, is to have gender equity drive the transformation of food systems and embed gender research as a natural basis for CGIAR agricultural development. It will do this by placing it at the forefront of planning and extension.
Director of the GENDER Impact Platform Dr Nicoline de Haan said the underlying objective of both the platform and the HER+ research initiative is to ensure women can be part of the decision-making that directs changes in food systems.
This is considered particularly significant as low-income, resource-poor smallholder farmers around the world face increasing challenges from climate change, diminishing land and water resources, and weakened ecosystems.
Research shows that climate stresses disproportionately harm women as they are more likely to go hungry in the aftermath of extreme weather events and crop failures, compared to men.
Further evidence shows that many agricultural tools and technologies developed to improve agriculture’s climate resilience have reinforced, rather than closed, gender gaps.
A core objective of the HER+ research will be to identify and test climate solutions that work for both women and men, and to record evidence of best practices and lessons learned.
‘HER+ is about giving women the tools, the space and the respect that allows them to have an equal say in what happens in their food and farming systems,’ said Dr de Haan, who is based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya.
Dr de Haan said that on one level the impact platform and HER+ are about fundamental equality and fairness – a key UN Sustainable Development Goal. They are also about empowering women to strengthen agriculture’s response to climate and biodiversity pressures.
‘A lot of labour and drudgery falls to women simply because there are entrenched assumptions about their roles. They also don’t get asked what they need, such as tools or technologies that would specifically help them.
‘I once asked women farmers in Cambodia what they most wanted and they said “more free time”. This is a fundamental voice that research planners need to hear,’ said Dr de Haan.
The HER+ initiative is strongly supported by ACIAR, which is a leading advocate for the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform.
ACIAR understood the need to bring together all the expertise on gender in agriculture and food systems in one place, to ensure gender research is cutting edge. In 2021–22, ACIAR contributed A$400,000 to HER+ and A$740,000 to the gender platform.
This complemented the new One CGIAR research strategy that seeks a more systems-focused approach to research than the traditional commodity or location basis.
A holistic approach is seen as a more effective way to mitigate the impacts of climate change and other food production constraints that contribute to hunger, malnutrition and endemic poverty. And central to this is gender equity and social inclusion.
ACIAR Director, Multilateral Engagement, Dr Julianne Biddle, said the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform and HER+ are at the forefront of leadership in gender-focused research in agriculture.
Dr Biddle is passionate about the need for lasting change and the potential impact that could come from creating more opportunities and participation for women and girls: ‘It could be the foundation stone to abolishing poverty.’
However, both she and Dr de Haan are realistic about the long road ahead; gender equity is a complex matrix of culture, norms, values, race, religion, community and household influences and circumstances.
Dr Biddle said ACIAR research program managers work closely with the local staff in country offices. ‘We lean on their advice quite heavily to ensure inclusion strategies are appropriate in the context of what we are working on.’
Dr Biddle added that vigilance is required to maintain equity and inclusion because it is easy for research and researchers to be gender blind.
‘It’s easy to see biophysical activity in soils, for example, as not having any gender relevance, but follow that through to particular crops, livestock or practices and there will be gender consequences because of the different farm roles and aspirations men and women often have,’ said Dr Biddle.
‘So part of my job is to keep reminding people to keep up the level of awareness we have all worked hard to achieve.’
This is why both HER+ as a research initiative and the GENDER Impact Platform as an overarching support to research are considered crucial. Sustaining gender equity at both policy and community levels will need a strong body of evidence showing it achieves results that benefit everyone – that it strengthens the endeavour to eliminate endemic poverty and create vibrant communities.
More information: CGIAR Gender Equity Initiative, CGIAR Gender GENDER Impact Platform