Category Archives: Christine Okali

Realistic understanding of gender relations needed when making policy

Photo: Future Agricultures

Photo: Future Agricultures

Christine Okali’s latest blog challenges policy makers to scrap the handy (and often unsupported) narratives on women/gender and climate change.

Here is some of what she said – but do read the whole blog!

“It is time to re-socialise gender policies. For real progress to be made towards gender equity and transforming gender relations across a range of institutions, policies must build on a more realistic understanding of the lives of women and men and their complex and changing relationships.

“In small-scale fisheries, for example, this means acknowledging gender relations between “boat owners, fish processors and sellers who are also wives, husbands, community members, and co-workers”, as one FAO report puts it; and looking at the role of social norms and values in constraining (or, in some cases, supporting) behavioural change and limiting the resilience of many women, but also of many men.

“Narrowly framed strategies are not ideal starting points for adapting to change. Projects with such strategies are unlikely to enhance the capacity of, for instance, small-scale fishing communities to adapt to climate change. A strategy which promotes gender-aware solutions that are fish-specific, focused especially on women characterised as vulnerable – and which ignores the existing evidence of the capacity of individuals and communities involved in fisheries to deal with livelihood threats – is unlikely to succeed.”

Note: The FAO report referred to can be downloaded here:


Understanding and measuring women’s empowerment in agriculture

FAC Okali weaiLast year, Genderaquafish posted on the new IFPRI, USAID, OPHI  index on women’s empowerment in agriculture tool (see the post and links). Now, Christine Okali, one of the world’s foremost researchers on rural development and gender,  has challenged the approach of the women’s empowerment index as being too specific, constrained to a point in time and failing to address the linkages between women and men in decision-making in  the  larger life settings. She suggests this is a step backwards to older approaches and concludes: “Surely a better understanding of the dynamics of decision-making, and therefore social change, would be a more satisfactory product for 2015 than an index that will only lead us back into an analytical, policy and programmatic cul-de-sac.”

Read Prof Okali’s blog at:

Rural Women’s Empowerment

This Expert Paper by Christine Okali of University of the University of Sussex is well worth reading. It was prepared for the UN Women Expert Group Meeting on  Enabling rural women’s economic empowerment: institutions, opportunities and participation that is now being held in Accra, Ghana, in cooperation with FAO, IFAD and WFP.

Achieving Transformative Change for Rural Women’s Empowerment 

Here is the paper’s conclusion:

“In terms of who can do what, organisations at different levels each have roles to play. UN agencies and other macro-level organisations have a key role to play in changing the way in which women are portrayed, narratives about gender relations, and even more basic understandings about who does what (that has been made central to planning). This may be one of the biggest challenges given the way in which this information has been used to date to promote a feminist agenda. However, a shift is already evident in the 2010 FAO SOFA. Meso-level organisations have a similar role to play but in addition they need to build capacity in the gender analysis that goes beyond comparisons between men and women on roles played and assets owned. What little information there is suggests that agricultural research organisations at this level need to incorporate a gender relations understanding within their participatory strategies, and to contribute insights into the understanding of the role of spouses and others in individual decision-making on say technical change. In terms of highlighting change pathways for achieving women’s economic empowerment, there are gaps in information, especially about supportive environments for change. A starting point for this work would be to identify existing formal and informal institutions that enable women’s agency, voice, claims and opportunities.”