In July 2021, Camp for Peace-Liberia (CPL) hired an independent local Gender Consultant to conduct a Gender Based Analysis (GBA) in the organization’s program area in Lofa County. The consultancy aimed to identify and analyze gender disparities in household roles and responsibilities, identify barriers to women’s participation in community development projects and the exercise of their rights, and solicit recommendations on the ways in which CPL can contribute to more opportunities and greater empowerment for women.
Questions asked during one-on-one interviews and focus groups considered topics such as ownership and control of assets, limitations on women’s ability to access resources (including land, finance, labour and social protection), and women’s priority needs and aspirations, especially in economic empowerment.
The Gender Consultant collected input from young women and youth men, women’s groups, CPL’s current and former students, members of Village Savings and Loan Associations, local government representatives, and local education, health and agricultural officers.
Her report to CPL showed that key barriers to women’s participation in income-generation and community development projects include women’s greater burden in household duties, women’s lack of decision-making power at the level of the household, lack of women’s ownership or control of household assets despite being responsible for them, and little access to land and farming inputs relative to that of men.
As a result of these barriers, women’s capacity to earn income from food cultivation or other business ventures is severely limited. A female single head of household has virtually no possibility of rising out of food insecurity and poverty. Women said in interviews that one of the best ways to improve living conditions is learning new knowledge and skills; but they are overwhelmed by their household roles and responsibilities. Most women (95%) in Lofa county are underemployed, and many are household heads who are solely responsible for providing for their families.
Young women and young men have little interest in farming, despite the fact it’s a viable source of household food and income. Few young men have sustained employment, and most engage in seasonal or casual labour. Young women expressed a demand for training in non-agricultural livelihoods such as tailoring and soap-making. Older women, who tend to be more involved in vegetable farming, believe that there is unmet market demand for locally-produced foodstuffs.
Women (98%) are much more involved than men (2%) in village savings groups. However, these groups typically cannot provide the amounts of capital needed to set up sustainable businesses. Both men and women find it rewarding to work together in the Kuu system of communal work parties; these are highly motivational, and enable people to help one another complete labour-intensive agricultural activities such as harvesting and clearing debris from fields.
On the basis of the findings above, the Gender Consultant made a number of excellent recommendations to Camp for Peace Liberia that will inform the development of existing and new programs in the coming years.
- Engage the community and household heads to discuss the need to reduce women’s household responsibilities to expand their opportunities to participate in community development activities, and thereby acquire new and improved knowledge and skills for sustainable livelihoods.
- Initiate consistent dialogue with households at the community level to encourage men to share decision making about assets, and the ownership and control of assets, with women. Educate community members that women can legally own land, and that sellers should regard women as legitimate and viable buyers when they have access to access loans and capital.
- Build on women’s and men’s interest and experience in working collaboratively, including (a) Kuu work parties in support of agriculture, and (b) village savings groups.
- Through dialogue with local government leadership, advocate for the expansion of women’s access to land, seeds and agricultural tools, which are necessary for their economic empowerment.
- Design programs for both men and women’s economic empowerment according to their own stated priorities: vegetable farming, skills in trades such as weaving and tailoring, and small business development.
- With a view to strengthening peer support, build capacity among organized women’s groups in the areas of basic record-keeping, leadership, psychosocial counselling, and group management.
- Provide young women program participants with child-care and educational aid, and reduce their required number of training days (e.g. from 5 to 3 per week), in order to facilitate their successful participation.
- Maintain and develop the program focus on Cooperatives, which improve long-term sustainability of results. Continue with other group activities and peer-support mechanisms, which enhance social cohesion and peace building for both men and women.