Cleo Roberts (Photo credit: IITA/Jeffrey Oliver)
Cleo Roberts (Photo credit: IITA/Jeffrey Oliver)

In this interview, Cleo Roberts (senior research assistant and monitoring and evaluation officer at the International Food Policy Research Institute – IFPRI) explains why gender is an important component for Africa RISING projects.
Why is gender important for inclusion into Africa RISING projects?
It is important if we want to increase food production and improve nutrition and increase welfare for households. It will also ensure that we put interventions into the hands of those who will want to use/apply it therefore ensuring that we have direct impact on aspects of household life. For example if an intervention aims at improving household nutrition, but it doesn’t include the people who typically cook in households who are women, then we are less likely to achieve the desired impact of the intervention. Gender therefore basically takes into account the roles different people play within the households to ensure better results at the household level.
Is gender only about women?
No. When we are working on interventions that could be very useful in the hands of women, it could be easier to look at men as the barriers to interventions even though this is not the case. Usually the barriers are caused by social norms rather than men, hence the “over simplified” assumption that gender is only about women. But there are plenty of ways in which we can think about men and gender, too! So gender is actually both male and female and beyond. Gender helps us know who is benefiting and how.
How will inclusion of gender aspects help Africa RISING achieve its sustainable and intensification goals?
Of course, inclusion of gender in certain interventions will definitely ensure sustainability beyond Africa RISING projects. Again, for example an intervention focusing on improving household nutrition that considers gender roles in a home and involves the person who mostly prepares meals in a home (mostly women) will definitely ensure sustainability especially with the right buy-in.
What are some of the challenges you faced in the course of implementing the surveys generally and with regards to gender?
One of the more general challenges we faced initially was figuring out who the beneficiaries of the Africa RISING projects were. That is a fundamental aspect that we needed to establish before we could go ahead with any M&E work. With regards to gender, the main challenge was conducting cross-gender interviews, and this was across all the countries. In one of the countries the female enumerators also ended up having to cook for the teams which could have negatively affected their work.
What were some of the strategies you applied to maintain the integrity of the data you collected?
It is sometimes very useful to focus explicitly on gender in the questionnaires. However, most of the respondents by now know or have generic and “politically-correct” responses that they will give once they realize that you are interested in gender aspects. So in our surveys we tried to weave individual gender questions with the household ones. For example, a question like which person decides what to feed the household doesn’t make a respondent feel like the questions are a criticism of their lifestyles.
Read Cleo Roberts’s Africa RISING staff profile here.
Find out about more gender work across Africa RISING.

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