Addressing Gender Inequity, One Scarf at a Time

Photo of farmer wearing green and gold scarf

A farmer proudly wears her new scarf, received during the Maychew ceremony

In the Ethiopian town of Maychew, more than 500 women gathered in October 2014, some to receive scarves of verdant green and marigold and others to receive similarly colored umbrellas during a ceremony to welcome them and to celebrate a long-awaited shift in gender equity. With this ceremony, these women joined thousands of others who are finally gaining the same representation for their labor as their male counterparts, thanks in part to a behavior change communications (BCC) campaign Danya International helped spearhead throughout Ethiopia.

Women farmers contribute substantially to sustaining Ethiopia’s agricultural sector, but numbers show that both primary farmer cooperatives (PCs) and larger farmer cooperative unions (FCUs) significantly underrepresent them. The Government of Ethiopia wants to change this. In 2014, they established a 30-percent target for female membership at these PCs and FCUs as a way to emphasize the increased efficiency that these groups would enjoy through active participation and leadership from women.

This was where Danya International was able to step in and provide the BCC support needed to make this goal a reality. Acknowledging that registration is both the first step and one of the biggest challenges to increasing women’s participation, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Agricultural Growth Program-Agribusiness and Market Development (AGP-AMDe) project utilized Danya’s BCC expertise to implement an incentive-based membership drive that would help women farmers step away from the societal norms that discouraged their participation and finally join in.

Woman with umbrella

This farmer displays her umbrella, which she received in honor of her recruitment efforts

Beginning in early 2014, Danya’s BCC staff designed and implemented an intensive multi-lingual BCC strategy targeting four AGP regions—Amhara; Oromia; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region; and Tigray. They offered incentives such as scarves for women who signed up and umbrellas for current members who recruited five or more women to join. Additionally, the campaign offered walking tractors and motorcycles to the PCs that showed the highest increase in women participants.

Thanks to Danya’s collaborative outreach campaign, more than 78,000 women registered as new cooperative members throughout 2014, according to government reports (AGP-AMDe has verified more than 42,000 of these registrants so far). The regional average membership increase for women went from 25 percent to 32.5 percent, with Maychew’s Bokra FCU reporting that 52 percent of its membership comprised women farmers—the highest percentage of women members in all four targeted regions. All four regions have demonstrated significant membership increases among women farmers.

Aside from the incentives offered for joining and recruiting others, women farmers already are reporting increases in income and benefits thanks to their new membership with PCs and FCUs. As proven by Danya’s BCC campaign, with the proper amount of encouragement, many women farmers throughout these regions are finally reaping the full reward for what they sow.

Read more about this project and a recent conference that celebrated the graduation of 100 women leaders from the Women in Agribusiness Leadership Network.