Stakeholders challenge norms constraining women in agri-food systems

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In a world experiencing rapid climate change, harmful gender norms play a significant role in limiting women’s abilities to build economic resilience needed to respond and adapt to the challenges created by unprecedented climate change. It is essential for women to take their place in co-designing solutions for building economic resilience. Studies have confirmed that Gender Transformative Approaches (GTAs) are effective in identifying, addressing and transforming the root causes of gender-based inequalities by tackling unequal norms, attitudes, and power relations.

In November 2022 and February 2023, the CGIAR Initiative on Gender Equality held stakeholder workshops in Nigeria and Tanzania to identify and understand norms that constrain women’s abilities to participate in and benefit from cassava, chicken, and fish AFS to build economic resilience.

The workshops brought together 17 stakeholders (9 women and 8 men) in Nigeria and 22 stakeholders (12 women and 10 men) in Tanzania, who were knowledgeable about gender issues within the focal AFS. The workshop participants were representatives from academia, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government departments, private sector, associations, among others who provide support in the focal AFS.

The stakeholder workshops created spaces to enable participants to map value chain actors in each node and their roles. Specific AFS group breakout sessions followed by plenary presentation, identified the norms that influence women’s abilities to participate in and benefit from value chain work and utilize innovations to build economic resilience to climate change challenges.

Stakeholder breakout session during the stakeholders’ workshop, at IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria (Photo credit; Agness Chileya, WorldFish).

Workshop outcomes

The two workshops not only yielded important information on studying norms in these contexts but also helped build a collective understanding of how norms shape outcomes for women in the focal AFS. Stakeholders confirmed the prevalence of norms that reinforce gender-based discrimination in focal AFS. These included lack of access to and control of financial resources, restricted mobility, low participation in leadership, and assigning of low-skilled/low-paying roles in different value chain nodes.

Norms in the chicken value chain restrict women’s access to and decision making on the use of credit and other financial resources without their husband’s approval. Without access to such financial resources, women’s abilities to open or expand businesses, generate income, and respond and adapt in the event of climate-related calamities get constrained.  A stakeholder from Nigeria stated:

“Can you imagine finding your wife negotiating credit repayment with another man or has failed to pay back? What would you think of as a husband? The story would change from credit to something else … He would be like, ‘what are you doing with my wife?’”

Stakeholders attested that norms play an important role in determining who participates in different activities of the focal value chains. Often, women are assigned time consuming jobs that are low-skilled and low-paying or keep them too busy to take on more lucrative value chain work. For example, it is not appropriate for women to sell produce in the market because, among other reasons, they need to look after their children. In Tanzania, women dominate post-harvest activities, specifically sorting and washing, peeling, and chipping cassava because it is shameful for a man to do such work.

During the workshop in Nigeria, stakeholders highlighted that many in Nigerian society believe that operating agricultural equipment is a man’s job. One of the norms reinforcing this in the catfish value chain states that women should not operate catfish hatcheries. Likewise, in Tanzania, norms also exist that restrict women’s use of technologies. A common norm in the capture fisheries value chain is that women should not use fishing equipment and it is not appropriate for a woman to own a fishing vessel. Such norms place limitations on women’s abilities to adopt and use improved technologies that make work more effective and efficient. Thus, women resort to using inefficient technologies and, in some instances, resist mechanization for fear that if task functions are mechanized, they will lose their jobs to men.

Next steps

The norms that were identified during the stakeholder workshops in Nigeria and Tanzania, among other insights, will be used to finalize the development of the qualitative tools for use in the assessment of normative constraints in the focal AFS.  The workshops also kick-started stakeholder engagement process to work in partnership with a variety of research and development actors to address normative constraints in AFS. These and other stakeholders will be invited to future stakeholder consultations to help identify leverage points (where) and levers (how) to intervene at a deeper level to tackle the restrictive norms that limit women’s abilities to build economic resilience to climate change challenges.


The CGIAR Initiative on Gender Equality aims to work with a range of partners operating in AFS in Nigeria and Tanzania in addressing normative constraints that limit capacities of women AFS actors to build economic resilience to climate change challenges using gender transformative approaches. The CGIAR research initiative is carrying out a global evidence synthesis and qualitative and quantitative assessments to better understand normative constraints in the cassava, chicken, and fish AFS. The evidence generated will be presented at stakeholder validation and consultation workshops to identify specific leverage points and associated levers at different scales in the AFS to help design and pilot a set of GTAs to address said norms.


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