What happens when women are good for more than cooking?

“Earlier we used to think women are just for cooking. Now their role and responsibility has changed.”

That’s what men in India say when you ask what has changed with Pathways. It neatly sums up why gender equality is one of CARE’s key tools to challenging hunger is focusing on women’s empowerment. Because when everyone—men and women—see that women are good for more than cooking, we can change the world.

What do the women say? “Now (through Pathways) we are taking decisions together about cultivation, income generation, household purchases and children’s education.” In India, that change has allowed food security to go up by 32%, and increased household incomes from farming by 54%—even in years with bad droughts.

What have we accomplished?

  • Higher incomes: Farm income has gone up by 54%. Not only has average income gone up, but more people are earning income from agriculture has nearly tripled—going up to 82%.
  • More food: Rice production has gone up 27%, and there is higher production of many kinds of vegetables. 61% of women have seen their crop yields go up since joining Pathways, despite climate shocks.
  • Healthier diets: Dietary diversity has gone up 32%, which means people are able to eat more balanced diets. In fact, 33% more families are able to eat vegetables regularly, and 4 times more families have access to fish or other protein sources.
  • More wealth, and a cushion for emergencies: Families have been able to increase their assets by 22%, which can help them cope with crisis. There aren’t just more assets, they are also more equally shared. The number of women who control assets also went up 86%.
  • Refusal to accept violence: The number of women who think gender-based violence (GBV) is unacceptable nearly tripled.
  • More empowered women: The number of women who are empowered according to CARE’s Women’s Empowerment Index went up 2.25 times, to nearly 11% of women. This is a combination of factors, from more women in leadership positions, to higher women’s mobility, to labor sharing with men, giving women more leisure time, to an increase in women’s ability to make decisions without permission from men. Lower acceptance of GBV is also factored in.
  • Better agricultural practices: The number of families using agricultural techniques that will help them adapt to climate change has doubled.

How did we get there?

  • Work with community groups: In India, Pathways works with Self Help Groups—groups of women farmers that discuss and take action on farming and marketing issues, and Reflect Circles—which look at gender equality issues, provide solidarity, and raise community awareness. This puts women in leadership positions and gives them access to training and information that they traditionally would not be able to access.
  • Increase access to quality information and services: The number of women with access to extension services more than tripled, and 95% of women feel that these are high quality services.
  • Increase access to inputs: Using agri-kiosks—a way to get products like improved seeds in businesses closer to where women farmers live—and increasing women’s mobility has resulted in access to inputs going up 150%. 27% of women are able to access input shops now who couldn’t before. The number of women who could get services close to home went up 25 times over the course of the project.
  • Work with governments: Pathways made sure to align its programming with government priorities and worked to train government extension agents on agricultural practices and gender equality to expand reach. As part of the partnership, the government helps subsidize access to farm equipment for women farmers.
  • Focus on diversity: Women in Pathways have been able to diversify both their sources of income—by working with new markets and new products—and the crops they grow. This provides greater resilience in times of stress and minimizes risk.
  • Get men involved: The gender equality programming included components of engaging men to accept women’s leadership and mobility, to reduce women’s workload at home, and to support women’s rights.
  • Make markets more transparent: Women have much more access to market and pricing information now, which allows them to make better decisions about when and how to sell their products.

Want to learn more?

Check out www.care.org/pathways for more information.