In developing countries, women make up over 40% of the agricultural labour force and this figure is expected to grow as men migrate away from rural areas in increasing numbers. Yet women face a multitude of complex barriers to maximising their potential. As long as women's access to land, finance and other productive resources is restricted, and their ability to control their time and decisions is hampered by social and cultural norms, they cannot take full advantage of the economic opportunities agriculture can give them.
This is a problem, not only for women working in agriculture, but also for businesses that rely on agriculture, governments, and society as a whole. Issues relating to agriculture and food security can only be achieved if this issue is appropriately considered and addressed. While barriers to women's economic empowerment are increasingly visible, efforts to overcome them have, so far, fallen short.
We believe that real change can be achieved through collaborative innovation. We need governments, companies, farmers and farming organizations, women's organizations and civil society, each with different strengths and areas of influence and accountability, to work together.
System Innovation for Women's Economic Empowerment (SIWEE) aims to make this happen. SIWEE is pioneering a collaborative, action-oriented approach that will not only achieve transformational change for women in agriculture but will also shift attitudes and behaviours across the agricultural sector.
SIWEE's overall objective is women's economic empowerment in agriculture - ultimately ensuring decent work and stable incomes for women alongside increased women's voice and agency in the cultivation and processing of agricultural produce. SIWEE will focus on a small number of select crops in three to four countries, and will bring together the actors for whom those crops and countries really matter.
At the national level, we will form multi-stakeholder Action Labs, comprised of farmer groups, private sector companies, Government agencies and civil society groups who jointly work on systemic issues facing women in specific supply chains. Each national Action Lab will:
- Diagnose barriers to women's economic empowerment
- Develop & implement pilot interventions
- Monitor and evaluate interventions
- Explore potential to scale up
The initiative will enable participants to:
- Identify the cross-sector challenges to WEE
- Implement multiple & collaborative interventions across at least two value chains in each country
- Learn how change happens to address systemic barrier to WEE
- Learn how to measure meaningful outcomes and impact
- Design scale-up interventions based on the findings of the initiative
The SIWEE initiative is starting with an action lab in Ghana focusing on cocoa, sorghum and shea. Additional labs will be set up over the next months. The Action Lab in Ghana will focus its work initially on two workstreams: improving access to finance for women, and alternative income generating activities.