Marlène Elias, Gender Specialist, Bioversity International, reflects on how gender norms can affect the ability of men and women to access, adopt, adapt and benefit from innovations in agricultural and natural resource management in a guest blog for Gennovate
Through the global study ‘GENNOVATE: Enabling gender equality in agricultural and environmental innovation’, roughly 6,000 rural study participants of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds are reflecting on and comparing local women’s and men’s expected roles and behaviors — or gender norms— and how these social rules affect their ability to access, adopt, adapt and benefit from innovations in agricultural and natural resource management (NRM).
Central to the qualitative field study is an exploration of women’s and men’s agency understood as “the ability to define one’s goals and act upon them” (Kabeer 1999, 438) at the core of which is the capacity to make important decisions pertaining to one’s life. For rural women and men, these decisions relate to agriculture and NRM, as well as to other significant events in the private (household) and public (community) spheres. Such instances include, for instance, whether or not to pursue a given livelihood strategy or whether, with whom and when to start a family.
Among the Thai in Northwest Vietnam, “men are the pillar of the family” is a common refrain. In the course of the GENNOVATE data collection, women and men from different age and socio-economic groups explained that Thai men are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to important household decisions. Yet, unpacking how decision-making processes transpire showed a more nuanced picture, as women’s input into men’s decisions came to the fore.