On Monday people around the world will be acknowledging International Day of Rural Women.

Established by the UN, it is a day set aside to recognise “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

According to the UN, women make up around 40% of the agricultural workforce globally. Women also tend to make decisions about resource use and investments that are in the best interest and welfare of their children, families, and communities. This makes women crucial in the delivery of global sustainability and climate change mitigation measures.

However, in many cases women have limited access to land ownership, financing and education, meaning that their contributions are under-represented.

The Gola Rainforest Project is working to reduce gender-based inequalities throughout the project area. This involves working at a range of levels, from the individual household to within business cooperatives, using the Gender Action Learning System (GALS) approach.

Aminata Berewa - Gender Specialist - Gola Rainforest Cocoa Project

The purpose of the GALS approach is to address gender imbalances that impede women’s ability to own assets, influence decision-making, participate in activities outside of the home and control incomes and expenditure. It is a community-driven process, involving both men and women, and a wide variety of activities aimed at making gender equality the societal norm. Most of the formal training is picture-based to ensure it is accessible to everyone irrespective of their educational background. And the process is designed to be collaborative to ensure everyone feels respected and valued.

To date, 66 community members (half men, half women) have been trained as Gender Inclusivity Champions. These champions were elected by their village committees and are responsible for cascading the training concepts and activities to the rest of their community.

Another initiative of the project has been to set up Village Savings and Loans Associations, giving individuals access to small loans to help pre-finance businesses. To date, 273 people have registered with the loans scheme, half of which have been women. By applying for investment for their own business ventures, this allows women to contribute independently to the income generation in their household and empowers them to have a say in how that income is spent.

The project has also established leadership development training for future women leaders, which is providing women with the knowledge, confidence and skills necessary to participate in community-based decision making. As a result, the percentage of women in leadership positions in the community farmer associations has increased to 29%, which is significant considering the total percentage of women farmers is only 22%. It is noticeable that women are participating more significantly in community discussions now and their valuable contributions to society are being recognised.

Female cocoa farmers participating in leadership training for future female leaders

Without the empowerment of the Gola women we would not be able to achieve the conservation goals we are aiming for in the Greater Gola Landscape.

 

Case Studies

Ms Juma Koroma: GACFA Farmer Association Treasurer and Chairlady of her village.

“I used to sell cocoa to other traders in the area. Traders would often cheat us; they never allowed the scales to face me, so I couldn’t see the weight of my cocoa and had no idea what price I should expect. I have now learnt to read the scales myself and know what I deserve for my cocoa.”

Mrs Hawa Daramy: Gender Inclusivity Champion

“Through the Gender training I learnt how to manage a business for profit maximisation…I have been able to extend (my farm) to 15 acres. Another thing I learned was diversifying in term of income generation for greater security over the year. In total I have trained nine new members, three from my household, three from the cocoa group and three non-members. The individuals adopted the concept and they are in return training their household members.”

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