Patna | Lucknow, India
Despite being more negatively impacted than men, rural women proved to be very resilient during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the wake of disruptions in supply chains, closure of markets, and lock-downs causing a short supply of labour force, women stood out by continuing their hard work, taking on additional tasks and upholding the lifeline of agriculture despite being vulnerable to threats and inequities. Their remarkable leadership in this time of crisis should serve as a guide for policymakers, development practitioners and agriculture extensionists to support women-led development and women’s leadership in agri-food systems, global experts said on Wednesday.
“Multiple and intersecting crises, such as climate change and COVID-19, have exposed the vulnerability of agricultural communities, particularly women. However, they have also highlighted the resilience of women and how they have been at the forefront of addressing these wicked challenges. Collectives of women have proved to be an important mechanism to enable them to do this. We have great examples of that from India, with a strong history of Self-Help Groups,” said Dr. Ranjitha Puskur, CGIAR gender researcher and Country Representative for India at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Experts and scientists in conversation with media representatives
Dr. Puskur spoke in a webinar for journalists, organized in the run-up to the international gender research conference, “From research to impact: Towards just and resilient agri-food systems,” which will take place in New Delhi on October 9-12. The event is designed to share cutting-edge knowledge and bridge the gap between research and practice to foster gender-equal and socially inclusive, resilient food systems. It is hosted by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform.
“During this conference, we will discuss how policies and other innovations can strengthen collective action and help women become more resilient,” stated Dr. Puskur.
While complimenting Bihar and Uttar Pradesh for targeted policy interventions addressed to women, experts speaking in this webinar said that focus on leadership in creating resilient, sustainable agri-food systems for women should be sharpened.
Dr. Eileen Bogweh Nchanji, a CGIAR gender specialist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, is leading research across 32 countries in Central, Eastern, Southern and Western Africa. She said that gender researchers can help develop technologies and innovations that can strengthen women’s resilience: “Women need different combinations of socio-technical bundles of innovations to build equitable, resilient and healthy systems in diverse contexts,” Dr. Nchanji highlighted how some policymakers in Africa are looking to India to learn from its experiences with establishing public-private partnerships. “It is time to scale up our successes through public-private partnerships,” she stated.
The CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform is convening its one-of-a-kind global network of gender researchers and bringing them together with other researchers, practitioners and policymakers to take stock of agricultural gender research to date and propose innovations for use on the ground: “We are combining theoretical and practical understanding to find out how to bring better tools into the hands of rural women and policymakers so that we can achieve greater resilience for everyone,” informed Dr. Nicoline de Haan, Director of the CGIAR GENDER Platform.
Dr. Seema Jaggi, Assistant Director General (HRD), Indian Council of Agricultural Research, said that ICAR is pleased to host this esteemed international research conference, together with the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform: “This event will bring together experts from across the globe to deliberate on gender inequality in agriculture and food systems and share their findings to improve research and practice. ICAR has been at the forefront of agricultural research, education, and extension activities for productivity enhancement and diversification of Indian agriculture. We are certain that the outcomes and the discussions will complement our endeavor to ensure innovation-led, inclusive and sustainable agricultural growth in the country.”
Experts said the task is cut out for the global community working to realize its goals on gender equality. Halfway to the end of Agenda 2030, achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5-gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls-appears out of reach. Based on the current pace of progress, it will take nearly 300 years to achieve gender equality. Omni-crises of COVID and climate change have halted and reversed progress, while, at the same time, growing inequality is undermining our ability to respond to the very crises that threaten rural peoples and landscapes everywhere.
Marianne Gadeberg, communications consultant with the CGIAR GENDER Impact Platform, said, “Coming directly on the heels of the successful G20 Summit, this conference will afford a unique opportunity for researchers and practitioners to discuss how their joint efforts can support and advance the commitments set out in the New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration, particularly on women-led development and women’s leadership roles in climate action, food security and nutrition.”
The event was moderated by Aparajita Kujur, South Asia regional strategic communication, IRRI. Many journalists also participated in the discussion and shared insightful perspectives. The webinar was organised by GreyMatters Communications and development communication platform Fijeeha.