Network makes headway in strengthening gender research at IITA

29 August 2020

The gender science network at IITA has made significant progress in its efforts to enhance gender research at the institute.  The network, which is made up of IITA social and biophysical scientists, Youth Program technical experts, and staff from other units, has finalized its working strategy that articulates how the network will operate in 2020 and beyond to help strengthen gender research at IITA.

The Gender team envisions having an innovative and diverse network of scientists in IITA to strengthen the quality and visibility of gender research at IITA through dialogue, cooperation, and influencing the delivery agenda of the institute. Its goal is to be a vibrant community of practice for gender advocacy and enhancing gender research, its communication, and impact.

The strategy’s theory of change showing the different components
The strategy’s theory of change showing the different components

The network has five main objectives, including to: (1) strengthen gender research capacities of network members; (2) develop and share gender research tools, methods, and analyses for wider application in projects and larger research programs and for enhanced learning by network members; (3) mobilize a diverse and larger membership within IITA to create a critical mass of scientists integrating gender in their research, (4) increase the number of gender-focused research projects in and outputs produced by IITA, and, (5) engage outside the network to broaden the impact of gender research, including with national partners.

Linked to these objectives, the network has identified 10 activities starting this year. These include organizing quarterly online and one face-to-face meetings for knowledge sharing and learning; developing a repository to share a wide variety of gender research tools, analysis strategies, key reading material and publications, webinars, etc., promoting gender focus and integration in research, creating awareness and understanding of gender research, and conducting gender research capacity development activities.

This strengthened gender research at IITA is expected to contribute to the Institute’s vision of transforming Africa’s agriculture.

“Gender is very important at IITA because we deal with issues related to improving the livelihoods of the society. We cannot achieve this goal in the presence of inequality, marginalized, and vulnerable groups. Gender transformative approaches are needed to evolve towards an egalitarian society. The gender network is that engine that IITA has developed to guide the institute and its members in that direction. In the last quarters, the network has made a tremendous progress by attracting the interest of the IITA community, as shown by the large participation of staff from different disciplines and backgrounds. The new gender expert is the centerpiece contributing to that progress,” explained Victor Manyong, IITA Director for Eastern Africa hub.

“Our use of a participatory approach when designing the gender science network with IITA staff from different technical backgrounds will help ensure that the network is delivering an important service at IITA and enhancing the overall gender research at the institute,” said Steven Cole, IITA gender coordinator.

A female farmer taking part in a participatory variety evaluation as part the Africa RISING project
A female farmer taking part in a participatory variety evaluation as part the Africa RISING project

“Being a part of the gender network will improve our scope of work. The Youth in Agribusiness office emphasizes the importance of equal participation and opportunities for all, especially women. Gender-related components need to be part and parcel of every in development project and this platform will help us to fine-tune our gender strategy and advocate for active involvement of all stakeholders,” Expounded Evelyne Ohanwusi, Coordinator, Young Africa Works Project and IITA’s Youth In Agribusiness Office.

According to Béla Teeken, IITA Associate social and gender scientist, “The gender network is essential in concretely integrating gender into the biophysical and soci-economic sciences of IITA because gender aspects are crucial in designing and delivering technologies and institutional innovations in a socially inclusive way. A large part of IITA’s target group comprises of smallholder crop producers, processors, and marketers and, especially in Africa, many crop-related work is organized along gender roles.”

He adds, “We have just started the network and the interest from people working in various disciplines is very encouraging. The gender network is an important hub for a problem-focused interdisciplinary approach looking at a socially inclusive outcome and impact to improve the living conditions of people and reduce poverty.”

The current network builds on past efforts aimed at bringing IITA scientists together as a community of practice for learning and knowledge sharing. In November 2019, the members met to determine how the network could open up to include additional IITA staff members. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis was carried out to help inform the new direction of the network. IITA staff were then invited to attend a meeting about the network to help chart its vision, goal, objectives, and key activities. Thereafter, the network strategy was developed in early 2020, which guides implementation efforts.