15 Key lessons Learned That Drive SWFF Gender Activities

Securing Water for Food (SWFF) addresses the constraints that women and girls face with respect to both access to and use of SWFF innovations and, where feasible, seeks to further understand the context, attitudes, and norms in their communities that affect gender and impact water and agricultural processes.

Over the last five years, we have proactively collected feedback on our activities and have catalogued 15 critical lessons learned that drive the activities and offerings of our gender portfolio for SWFF innovators. These include:

  1. Solutions and changes cannot be imposed. If you want innovators to integrate gender, it should be in ways that improve innovators’ processes without added technical and financial burdens.
  2. Expectations for gender programming need to be set as early as the application process so that there are no surprises.
  3. Innovators struggle with gender prescriptions when they do not fit with their business model, cultural context, religious practices, or capability to implement.
  4. Gender programming must take into account different socio-economic contexts of the areas where SWFF innovators are working.
  5. Many innovators have concrete gender strategies in place, but have limited resources to address issues that are beyond their control.
  6. Most innovators can provide evidence of gender influence on some aspect of their businesses (e.g., marketing strategies).
  7. Innovators are “doing gender” but are often not labeling it as such.
  8. Gender programming may be better received by the innovators if the focus is on understanding context of “gender situations,” relationships, and issues to foster equality rather than just focus on women’s issues.
  9. Innovators show evidence of women’s empowerment, count gender issues as integral in their operations, and in the gender training sessions felt like facilitators were “preaching to the choir.”
  10. Gender recommendations need to be actionable so that if a commitment is made, it is clear what is expected of all parties.
  11. Innovators want SWFF to help their business address the issue of gender with tailored practical recommendations (e.g., an HR training program that focuses on hiring and developing women; implementation of pragmatic, doable, and low cost/high impact tailored measures).
  12. A gender lens should be used as early as project design, in implementation, and in all evaluation tools, and innovators need assistance to do this.
  13. If you push gender, you must be a partner in helping to increase its applicability.
  14. Theoretical gender information is not seen as useful by SWFF innovators and is not the most effective way to convince others of the utility and effectiveness of gender integration.
  15. Capacity to collect gender-related insights, including examination of the role of men as both barriers and enablers varies greatly among innovators, with small private enterprises struggling the most given the necessity of using their limited resources efficiently.

SWFF has taken significant strides toward finding the right balance between supporting and strengthening innovators’ gender focus without imposing gender norms that lack cultural context and sensitivity. We will continue to grow, adapt, and evolve to address these challenges over the coming years.

Download Gender Empowerment and Integration Report: Historical Timeline, Summary of Activities, and Lessons Learned here.