First-ever ICRAF gender strategy endorsed by the Board

After more than a year’s worth of consultations, workshops, and research, ICRAF’s first-ever gender strategy has been endorsed by the Board of Trustees. The strategy, which aims to raise awareness and enhance gender research capacity among ICRAF scientists, stresses that addressing and understanding gender issues in research is key to achieving ICRAF’s mission. 

“We realized that if we were going to be a leader on gender, we would need a strategy and action plan to guide us,” said Dr. Margaret Kroma, ICRAF’s Assistant Director General for Partnerships and Impact, in her opening remarks at a 20 November seminar that introduced the strategy to ICRAF staff. 

A team of researchers led by Ana Maria Paez Valencia, a Social Scientist in ICRAF’s Partnerships and Impact Directorate, was responsible for drafting the strategy. Other contributors included Dr. Christine Jost, Dr. Evelyn Kiptot, Dr. Farhat Naz, Dr. Delia Catacun, and Dr. Kroma, as well as nearly three dozen other ICRAF staff who participated in workshops to critique and refine the strategy.

At the 20 November seminar, Paez Valencia made a thorough case for why ICRAF needs a strategy in the first place. Women are traditionally the collectors of fuelwood and other non-timber forest products, she said, but they have limited control over land and trees. Moreover, men and women tend to approach trees with different objectives, and understanding those differences is key to understanding the multi-functionality of landscapes. 

“Many CG centres already have gender strategies,” Paez Valencia said. “We are actually a little bit late.”

The strategy includes a detailed action plan for how to integrate gender into ICRAF’s research and development agendas. This includes teaching ICRAF scientists about basic gender concepts; targeting partner organizations that have gender expertise and that are working on gender-transformative initiatives; and creating a functional Gender Unit, led by a senior scientist. 

Jacqueline Ashby, the CGIAR’s Senior Advisor for Gender and Research, noted that this last action point is especially critical. 

“Gender research [in the CGIAR] is being driven to lots of little studies, little projects,” she commented via Webex during the seminar. “One of the very important functions of a Gender Unit is to try to ensure that there is some research that is getting enough resources in terms of money and people for there to be significant projects that are gender responsive, as opposed to lots of little studies. This is a very important strategic role that you will have.”

Paez Valencia also noted that ICRAF’s Human Resources department is working to develop a policy to address gender and diversity in ICRAF’s workplace. That policy, which is meant to complement the gender research strategy, will be presented to ICRAF’s Board of Trustees in April 2016.

To view Paez Valencia’s seminar presentation, which was also presented to the board on 24 November, please click here.