RISING voices: Annet Mulema, gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Ethiopia
Annet Mulema, gender specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), introduces herself and her work with the program. It is one of a series of portraits of key people in Africa RISING.
Tell us about your background
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture awarded by Makerere University, in Kampala, a master’s degree in Management of Agro-ecological knowledge and socio-technical Change awarded by Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a Ph.D. in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture awarded by Iowa State University, in the USA. My first job was at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Kampala where I worked as a research associate, supporting research in the ‘Enabling Rural Innovation’ project, and the sub-Saharan Africa Challenge program. After my PhD. I worked for Practical Action in Nairobi, coordinating a regional study on the impact of climate change, then joined the Africa Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) as a knowledge management expert where I coordinated the institution’s senior policy makers’ knowledge sharing program. It is from there that I joined the International Livestock Research Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were I am currently working as gender specialist. Shortly after joining ILRI, I was selected as one of the 2014 AWARD fellows, a career development program for impressive, talented and motivated female scientists in agricultural research.
What do you do in your current position?
In my current position as a gender specialist, my job is to support ILRI’s programs and projects to integrate gender into crop-livestock research. I support two CGIAR research programs: Livestock and Fish and Humidtropics; two bilateral projects:cAfrica Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING), a USAID- funded project, and an IFAD project addressing animal health. My major role is to implement the gender strategies for the respective programs and projects. I use the gender lens to ensure that programs do not miss vital gender roles and differences in the ownership and control over productive resources that affect family nutrition, income, food security, and vulnerability. I am involved in gender responsive research, identifying approaches to increase womens’ participation in crop and livestock value chains, as well as increasing their access to and control over productive resources and benefits. Besides this I also enhance the gender capacity of ILRI’s staff and partners in diagnosing and overcoming gender based constraints. Insights into the work I do in Africa RISING can be accessed at http://africa-rising.wikispaces.com/Gender+in+Africa+RISING
What are your plans for Africa RISING?
From the gender responsive studies that I have conducted so far, I have noticed that one of the major constraints to women’s access to and control over productive resources and benefits from our research is culture and norms. Culture and norms have in part contributed to male dominance especially in Ethiopia. Therefore, a plan to address this is to introduce gender transformative approaches in the sites where I work across the program/projects that I support. I would like to employ the household transformative approach as an effort geared towards empowering women. The approach transforms gender constraining norms and relations. I would also like to undertake a study to understand the impact of our interventions (including technologies and institutional innovations) on men and women farmers that we work with and also understand the extent to which the gender capacity development initiative has impacted on the way our partners do their work. I would like to have more youth involved in the research and benefiting directing from ILRI’s research.
What are the biggest Africa RISING challenges and how do we deal with them?
One of the biggest challenges is getting people to integrate gender in their work. Although many of us express commitment to gender, many of us do not actually do it. Many of my colleagues think it’s the work of the gender expert. In addition, many of them do not consult me. So you see all these reports that are published and they are completely gender blind. This really frustrates me and I keep wondering whether I am doing my best. But I work with people and not plants that I can control. Dealing with this challenge requires commitment and support from top management. Top management has to give orders. We also need to specify areas where we need to do well on gender…areas were gender should not be overlooked.
The other challenge especially in Ethiopia is getting women to participate in our interventions. This is attributed to, in part, the culture and norms within the communities but also the commitment and capacities of our staff and partners. So I would like to conduct another gender capacity assessment (follow-up assessment) and try out different approaches of gender capacity development. Instead of doing trainings only, I want to complement it with coaching and mentoring. I want to compile a tool kit with all the gender analysis tools for the staff and partners to use. This tool kit will include gender transformative approaches. Most of our partners lack access to gender analysis tools, so this will come in handy.
What are some of the main achievements of this program?
Africa RISING Ethiopia has a gender strategy which we are implementing. I think it requires some revision. The strategy has guidelines to mainstream gender but I guess very few if any, have read this strategy, internalized it and tried to enforce it. We also have gender champions on the ground who support the field-based teams in conducting gender-related activities and giving feedback from the research we do. The communications team has also done a great job of publishing the work we do in different forms to accommodate different audiences. Africa RISING-Ethiopia has also been successful in gaining a pool of competent partners to support different kinds of research that address the Feed The Future outcome indicators.
What gives you hope looking at a possible second phase, based on the first phase?
Africa RISING is contributing to most of the feed the future outcome indicators including gender and nutrition, which are labelled as cross-cutting issues. Gender is at the heart of Africa RISING research. We are doing quite well on addressing the root causes of gender disparities. More is needed to close the gender gap so we need more funding to implement interventions that will bring about positive change in the livelihood of the rural poor especially women and the marginalized groups.