The value of gender, diversity and inclusion in ICRAF
The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) recognizes that the quality and diversity of its workforce are key to the achievement of its mission and mandate. In 2016, the Centre developed and commenced implementation of its Gender, Diversity and Inclusion (GDI) Policy which seeks to facilitate an all-inclusive work environment and preserve the rich diversity which embraces everyone irrespective of nationality, race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion or social status.
An increasing body of international research supports the notion that socio-demographically diverse people who think and problem-solve in diverse ways, tend to outperform groups of homogeneous experts. The benefits of diverse and inclusive organizational cultures include higher returns on investment, higher employee retention, improved corporate governance and increased innovation and creativity.
On 10 May this year, the Centre organized a seminar dubbed Mainstreaming Gender, Diversity and Inclusion at the Work Place at its headquarters in Nairobi. This was the first seminar in the implementation of the GDI policy which was recently approved by the Board. Guest speakers included Dr Izeduwa Derex-Briggs, Regional Director, East and Southern Africa, UN Women, Ms Anne Kabugi, IFC’s Africa Gender Lead, and Ms Judith Odhiambo, Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs at the KCB Group.
During the opening session, Dr Ravi Prabhu, the Deputy Director General (Research), noted that the organization looked forward to inputs to help ICRAF become not only gender sensitive, but also gender-transformed. “It is also important that we look beyond the office and begin paying more attention to the impacts that we have had on the livelihoods of women and youth in all our projects and programmes.”
Idah Ogoso, the Acting Human Resources Director, revealed that the seminar was a follow-up to the activities that had been implemented in developing the policy to ensure a dynamic and engaged environment that embraces everyone at the workplace. Highlighting the fact that ICRAF is the first Centre in the CG system to roll out a GDI Policy in the workplace, she noted that the organization currently has over 40 nationalities globally who all need to come together to accomplish its vision and mission.
“The Centre is committed to fostering a culture that reflects ICRAF’s core values which include creativity, professionalism, mutual respect and inclusiveness,” she concluded.
Dr Izeduwa Derex-Briggs the keynote speaker, in her introduction noted that gender is a way of life. “It is not a principle or strategy, and gender is not about women. It is about opportunities, access and stereotyping, and unfortunately, women are on the receiving end,” she observed.
Noting that coming up with a GDI policy was just the beginning of a long journey, she suggested that ICRAF undertake a gender audit, ensure that its senior leadership team ‘walks the talk’, and put in place affirmative action in recruitment and retention of staff. In her conclusion Dr Derex-Briggs challenged ICRAF to respond to the question, “How does what we are doing translate into changing a woman’s life in the community?”
“In Africa, 60-80% of agricultural food producers are women. Men in agriculture have access to technology, information, improved seeds and improved tools, and their produce continues to increase. On the other hand, the produce of the woman farmer continues to diminish. She doesn’t have access to land, knowledge, improved seeds or technology, so she continues to toil using rudimentary tools. The only way we can change her life is to give her information, seeds and tools. If we want to be transformational in the field of agriculture, we need to critically look at the African woman.”
The IFC’s Ms Anne Kabugi, asserted that there was need to close the gap between men and women. “It is important to invest in women to create value, drive growth and enhance reputation. Some of the activities that IFC has been involved in towards closing the gap include ensuring favourable terms of employment and putting in place effective grievance mechanisms.”
Ms Judith Odhiambo, discussed the activities that the Kenya Commercial Bank is currently undertaking to promote gender equity such as the Women in Leadership Network initiative which offers training opportunities to women to prepare them for leadership roles. The institution has also put in place facilities to ensure a smooth transition for mothers when they return to work following maternity leave.
During plenary discussions, it was proposed that ICRAF partner with AWARD and UN Women to launch a major gender-transformative research programme that would look into issues affecting women farmers in the continent. It was also noted that leaders must invest time and resources to create an inclusive environment.
The seminar was facilitated by Mr Maimbo Malesu, Programme Coordinator, Water Management, and Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenburg, Director, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD).
See photos of the event here.
The World Agroforestry Centre is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund