Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps


3/8/9 International Day of the Woman

Today is International Women's Day / International Day of the Woman / World Women Day - depends on how you translate it.

Any way you phrase it, it's an excellent opportunity to raise issues of Gender and Women's Rights. :)

Peace Corps has a committee known as "GAD", Gender And Development, that helps us organize activities and events to raise awareness of women's issues.

Actually GAD's focus is broader - it's a paradigm for developement that means incorporating the attitudes and needs of *all* the members of a community - men, women, boys, girls, and the elderly.

One of the examples they give, to illustrate the importance of GAD, has to do with tree plantings.

Once upon a time, there was a community that desperately needed erosion control and soil improvement. Their Peace Corps Volunteer thought that planting trees would meet these environmental needs. He talked to the men in his village, who explained that they wanted fruit trees, to serve as a cash crop. The Volunteer found funding and there was a massive tree-planting effort.

What the PCV didn't know was that in this community, women were responsible for agriculture. So women were expected to water and nurture the trees, and eventually harvest the fruit.

The women had enough work to do, saw no point in supporting this crazy project, and the trees all died.

So the next PCV in the community talked to the women. They explained that they spend most of their time hiking into the forests nearby to gather "fuelwood", branches and twigs that they can burn to heat their houses and cook with. So they want fast-growing, low-maintenance trees that can serve as a local source of fuelwood.

So she arranged funding for a massive tree-planting effort...which was stymied at every turn by the men, who didn't like being left out of the decision-making process and who saw no point in planting trees that didn't grow saleable products.

The third Volunteer talked to the men *and* the women. She explained to the women the potential benefits of this extra income for their families. She explained to the men that if women didn't have to hike out for fuelwood, they'd have more time to cultivate the fruit trees. She got the men and the women to talk *to*each*other* about their different needs.

Result: Impasse. Deadlock. And ultimately...compromise.

The community ended up planting a combination of fruit trees and fast-growing fuelwood trees. (Pines, I think.) Since the women didn't have to go as far to get fuelwood, they were available to cultivate the fruit trees. Since the men understood the purpose of the fuelwood trees, they helped plant them.

And they all lived happily ever after. :)

I don't know how exactly this example was drawn from life, or how many details have been changed in years of retellings, but the take-home lesson is a good one: a clear understanding of gender roles and gender-based needs is key to effective, sustainable development.

Happy Women's Day! :)

1 comment:

  1. Liz, I love the tree planting story, great lesson for other issues as well.


Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps