Advancing gender equity through women producers’ exchange platform

IIED is strengthening gender equity and the agency of rural women producers through the Forest and Farm Facility.

Article, 11 July 2023
A group of women stand around a table and write on a white piece of paper.

Women's bank savings groups, Sri Lanka (Photo: copyright Sevanatha)

Despite major progress in reducing overall global poverty levels, new research shows a ‘feminisation’ of poverty, meaning that women are at greater risk of slipping into or remaining in poverty.

This is especially true in the agriculture and forest sectors of the global South. Even though women play important roles along agricultural and forest value chains, they suffer large gender inequalities in access to agricultural assets, inputs, services, new technology, education, information, markets, rights and legal protection, networks and decision-making processes.

They also have less control of the products and income from their sale. This causes large costs to their countries, communities and households.

The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) focuses on strengthening forest and farm producer organisations (FFPOs). Formal and informal producer organisations can help rural communities overcome poverty and facilitate their access to resources, assets, markets and services.

Women-only producer organisations can be crucial where existing producer organisations are restricted to men or where it is culturally not foreseen for men and women to sit together and jointly negotiate and make decisions. However, women-only groups often remain limited to the local level.

In mixed organisations on the other hand, women may be well represented as members, but few of them occupy leadership positions. Generally, women are often excluded or poorly represented in such organisations, which tends to reinforce existing gender inequalities.

Agency through entrepreneurship

Finding ways to reconcile family and work life is a challenge for working women everywhere. But greater empowerment of women can lead to greater public investments in childcare, education and health. In turn, this has many positive effects on women’s livelihoods and wellbeing.

Issues of gender often touch on deeply sensitive and controversial topics, including division of labour at the family level or the treatment of gender by religion. However, gender equality in business is often a more acceptable entry point for reducing women’s vulnerability and empowering their status within organisations and households.

Women’s economic empowerment through entrepreneurship is an entry point to other forms of empowerment. It is also one of the most important factors contributing to equality between women and men.

The economic empowerment of women is considered essential for poverty reduction and sustainable economic development. The enhancement of gender equity and women’s agency is one of FFF’s core cross-cutting themes.

Guided by women leaders

As part of its gender strategy, the FFF aims to offer opportunities that allow women producers to take part in peer-to-peer (women-to-women) sessions to exchange knowledge and experiences and to enable for greater economic empowerment.

While the challenges for women’s economic development are manifold, FFF acknowledges that many trailblazing women producers and producer organisations in its extended network may offer valuable lessons to their peers. It is in this spirit that FFF-IIED is working with women leaders of these organisations to initiate a global rural women producers’ exchange platform.

One such leading organisation is India’s Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA), which works to economically empower women.

IIED will work closely with women leaders of FFPOs, NGOs, exchange programmes and the private sector across Africa, Asia and Latin America within the wider FFF network to guide the implementation of the FFF gender strategy and develop an exchange platform.

A series of dialogues

As one of the implementing partners of FFF, IIED is hosting an online dialogue series for women-led or majority women FFPOs. 

The aim is to create a space for women producers, entrepreneurs and leaders to connect with each other, share and exchange experiences and ideas, and support and inspire one another around women’s empowerment in their own contexts. 

Each dialogue focuses on a topic around rural women producers’ agency and entrepreneurship, and will feature case study presentations by invited speakers, the opportunity for conversations in small circles and facilitated discussions.  

Dialogue 1 (30 March 2023) 

The first online dialogue unpacked entrepreneurial and leadership mentoring and peer-to-peer learning as valuable approaches for providing guidance and support, networking opportunities, skill development, confidence building and accountability to self-set goals and commitments for aspiring women entrepreneurs and leaders.

Three such initiatives were introduced: 

In group discussions the participants collectively generated a range of recommendations on how women producer organisations, businesses and leaders could be supported.

The solutions that mentorship and peer-to-peer learning services offer to address common challenges for women entrepreneurs are shown in this infographic, designed to be used by FFPOs and their support partners in advocating for and developing such services.

Watch a recording of the first dialogue above or on IIED's YouTube channel. Spanish and French translations will be available shortly

Further reading

Strengthening the role of women in agriculture and natural resource management, Rose Pélagie Masso (2023), Project report

Empowering producer women through peer-learning and mentorship, Varsha Mehta (2023), Project report

Blog: Empowering women forest and farm producers: learning from the best, by Isabela Núñez del Prado Nieto (March 2023)