International Women’s Day 2017: Women in the Changing World of Work

Dr. Catherine Ndebele of the World Agroforestry Centre in West Africa. Photo/Susan Onyango

Dr. Catherine Dembele of the World Agroforestry Centre in West Africa. Photo/Susan Onyango

International Women’s Day is observed on March 8 every year to celebrate women’s achievements throughout history and across nations. For more than 100 years, countries around the world have observed this day in various ways in recognition of the vital role women play in the social, economic, cultural and political sphere.

This year’s theme, Women in the Changing World of Work: Plant 50-50 by 2030, acknowledges the unique opportunities offered by globalization and technology, alongside the new economic and environmental opportunities, and challenges, that lie ahead. In 2015, World leaders adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, which emphasize the central role of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. According to the United Nations, achievement of the goals, including ending poverty, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, reducing inequalities within and between countries, and achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls, rests upon unlocking the full potential of women in the world of work.

Gender imbalance in the field of research is a well-recognised problem, with UNESCO estimating that women comprise only 28% of researchers across the world. Fixing gender inequality in science cannot, however, be done in isolation of fixing gender equality in society. Gender issues are both complex and complicated and setting up randomized, controlled and orthogonally designed experiments won’t give us all the answers we need. In addition, all males – men, boys, fathers, uncles, friends and grandfathers – need to be as involved as all females. Gender parity is not about a lowest common denominator, but about fairness and combined progress for all.

A lot can be done to accomplish women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work, as well as globally through policies that foster the meaningful participation of women across all areas of public, and private, life. Here at the World Agroforestry Centre, a number of women scientists have built their careers by progressing academically to as high as doctorate level and they, and others, are increasingly taking up senior positions within the organization.

According to Prof. Tony Simons, director general of the World Agroforestry Centre, to support the next generation of women scientists we need both an institutional commitment and a gender-sensitive allocation of resources to produce results. Promoting gender balance in science will require both re-programming of existing finances to make resources available to support women researchers, and the securing of new funding. Discretionary funds are specifically needed for young female scientists’ scholarships, to support mentors, and for access to scientific equipment and publishing opportunities. It will also require affirmative action in hiring, whilst avoiding any pitfalls around claims of tokenism or favouritism.

“As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us also celebrate the female scientists of the future who will help trail blaze not just gender equality but true gender integration, and gender synergy,” added Simons.

The World Agroforestry Centre recognizes the valuable contribution that women make in meeting our goals to improve the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers globally. Meet some of them here.
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Also see: 

World Agroforestry Centre’s gender-related research

Blog – Gender in agriculture: creating opportunities for women

Blog – Power in balance: encouraging news about gender from Southern Sulawesi

Blog – Understanding gender dimension of agriculture and climate change in smallholder farming communities

We would like to thank all donors who support our work through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.'

Susan Onyango

Susan Onyango is the Global Communications Coordinator at the World Agroforestry Centre and is based at the headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. With over 15 year’s experience in communication, she ensures efficient and effective coordination of communication support to units and regions at ICRAF. She joined ICRAF in 2014 as communications specialist for the Climate Change Unit. Susan holds a MA communication studies and a BA in English. Twitter: @susanonyango

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