Gender in Value Chains

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2. Strategizing

When starting a gender in value chain intervention first there has to be decided on the strategy to follow. This chapter will allow you to situate your organization and to select the most suitable strategy for addressing gender in vale chains. The chapter describes five strategies addressing gender sensitive value chain development from a different perspective. They are schematically represented below.  


The five strategies:

1. Mitigating resistance by building on tradition

2. Creating Space for Women

3. Organizing for Change

4. Standards, certification and labels 

5. Gender and CSR


1. Mitigating resistance by building on tradition.

This strategy builds on women’s traditional roles in value chains. Women’s visibility in value chains is increased by professionalizing their traditional tasks; which increases the benefits that accrue to women.

This strategy is particularly applicable in:

  • traditional (conservative) environments: women face less opposition when engaging in typically female economic activities.
  • pastoralist societies where women traditionally take care of livestock
  • vulnerable societies (e.g. post-disaster or drought areas) where women face constraints in rebuilding their livelihoods.
  • societies recovering from conflict, where many women have become the breadwinners.
  • religious societies where women face a lot of constraints.

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2. Creating Space for Women.

This strategy (i) positions women in male dominated value chains to increase their visibility and economic decision-making power and (ii) stimulates women entrepreneurship (new enterprises as well as upgrading existing enterprises).

The ‘positioning of women in male dominated value chains’ strategy is particularly easy to apply:

  • when land ownership is not affected and when high value inputs or other barriers that can constrain women are not required.
  • where activities can easily be done by women and that do not increase overall work burden, bearing in mind women’s many other responsibilities.

The ‘women entrepreneurship’ strategy is particularly suitable:

  • When women already take up business initiatives, but could improve them or scale them up.
  • When there is a clear market opportunity that women can exploit.
  • When business opportunities fit the other demands on women’s time and situation. This might mean that they do not require many assets or own land,that the business be close to home, and so on.
  • When there is not too much resistance from men and from the rest of the community.

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3. Organizing for Change.

In order to move from mitigating resistance at the producer level towards women’s empowerment further up the chain and within households, women and men need to organize for change. Due to structural constraints women have limited access to technical assistance and extension services. Since women carry out a lot of the tasks also for cash crops this creates inefficiencies in productivity. This entails interventions throughout the chain targeted towards breaking down structural constraints, as well as building human agency (confidence, self-esteem, skills, capacities).

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4. Standards, certification and labels. 

As a strategy to address gender, standards and certification target the whole chain. This approach is unique in that it connects to the consumer and because it targets the chain context as well: it sets the standards on who participates in the chain and how. There are two strategies for gender equity interventions through standards and certification.

1. Labels and seals: Selling women’s participation

This strategy is particularly useful where:

  • women are marginalized or unrecognized for their value chain contributions.
  • market differentiation can be a selling point and earning point
  • a woman-only label will not restrict existing channels or chains
  • added value is necessary (e.g., where prices are otherwise uninteresting).
  • a company wants to address a gender equity issue at the producer level.
  • the religious or cultural context will not endanger women who participate.
  • there is a market and buyer who is part of the process.
  • the drivers are social justice and women’s empowerment (not just money!).
  • funding is available for capacity development and pre-financing.
  • management is supportive.

2. Making use of existing third-party certified standards

This strategy can be used when a farmer group is already certified to a social or environmental standard (Fairtrade, UTZ, organic and so on) and thus has a documentation and traceability system in place; or, when a farmer group want to enter these markets.

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5. Gender and CSR.

This strategy focuses on companies further along the value chain that integrate gender into their corporate strategy. Companies have the potential to address gender inequality and improve the position of women in the agricultural value chains they are part of. 

The strategy is particularly useful when:

  • Company leaders are committed.
  • The company or its main partners are located close to the actors in the supply chain
  • The company takes into account consumer priorities and concerns.
  • It is possible to find the right partners to implement the approach.

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Pyburn, R. and Laven, A. (2012). “Book Launch - A Woman’s Business: gender equity in agricultural value chain development”. Power point presentation to launch of an early edition of the book: KIT, APF, IIRR (2012) Challenging Chains to Change: gender equity in agricultural value chain development. KIT Publishers, Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam. Presented at the Ninzi Hill Hotel, Kigali, Rwanda. May 25 2012.

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