In March GenARDIS grant winners met for the last time after more than a year of innovative research and work to improve rural women’s lives in countries like Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic and Zambia. With projects as diverse as community radio drama groups, pest control through information access and using technology to promote women’s inheritance and land rights, projects were as diverse as the countries they came from. But as this third round of small grants winds down, participants are determined to scale up their work.
GenARDIS is for the deaf woman in Ethiopia who can now generate her own income through digital photography. GenARDIS is for rural mothers across rural Africa, who can now provide additional income for their families because they can market to buyers from outside their community. GenARDIS is for small women farmers who are no longer being taken advantage of by the middle man, that can now get a fair price for their crop by sending a simple SMS. It is for farming women in Cameroon who were able to purchase new and more appropriate farming tools thanks to increased revenues and the ability to call into town to order the product. GenARDIS is for the villagers in Tanzania who were tired of walking three hours to get to the market, and took it upon themselves to build and create their own market using radios and mobile phones to get clients.
It is for the lives of rural men and women that are changing thanks to access to technologies. GenARDIS is the reason donors like the Dutch Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada, the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) come together with the APC to fund research and projects on the ground in rural communities across the world.
The small grants programme Gender, Agriculture and Rural Development in the Information Society (GenARDIS) started in 2002 to support work at the grassroots level on gender-related issues in ICTs for agricultural and rural development in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions.
This third round of GenARDIS received more applications than ever — over 200. After two years of research and project implementations in countries like Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zambia, with projects as diverse as radio drama groups, pest control through information access, and ICTs to promote women’s inheritance and land rights; projects were as diverse as the countries they were implemented in. Grantees presented their outcomes, challenges and analysis and were given the tools to take their research to the next step, beyond GenARDIS – using the results for policy advocacy, formalising research and publicising it through mainstream media and learning about new monitoring and evaluation tools for future use.
Oumy Ndiaye, Head of the Communications Services Division at the CTA, attended the workshop in order to learn more about the work being done on the ground and provided useful feedback to the grantees. “GenARDIS is the opportunity to see things moving on the ground,” she says.
What’s in store for GenARDIS?
So what’s next for GenARDIS? Funding for the programme comes to an end with round III and at this time GenARDIS’ future remains uncertain. Partners remain committed however. Donors, APC as the organisers and grantees alike all share a common conviction to see this project carry on, so that new small-scale initiatives can benefit from seed grants, face-to-face capacity building and opportunities to network regionally and internationally. “Let’s not move away from the mandate of GenARDIS,” says Oumy. “It is not meant to be a large development project budget – it is meant to help small projects get started.”
Listen to Oumy Ndiaye of the CTA in this short interview.
What about the projects?
At the workshop, APC had the opportunity to speak the grantees about their projects and learn about what changed in the communities, thanks to access to ICTs.
In Tanzania, about 80% of farmers are women explains Ruth Madulu of the Mikocheni Agricultural Research Institute (MARI). Their project aimed at empowering women thought ICTs – especially mobile phones – in order to access buyers and obtain market prices. As a result, women and their families saw an increased income, which allowed them to pay for their children’s school fees, and can now contribute to the other financial needs of their families like groceries, and are generally more confident. “They do not depend on their husbands if they need money and their husbands also have more recognition for the woman’s place in the family and society” Ruth tells us.
Listen to an interview with Ruth at the Knowledge sharing workshop in Johannesburg.
African Radio Association in Nigeria aimed at improving the livelihood of rural women small farmers using radios and mobiles phones. ARDA organised training sessions on how to use mobile phones, and how to tune radios etc. as well as radio programmes where women could call into the radio to farming experts. Because women now have more knowledge, they are more confident in their capacities and looked up to within their communities for their knowledge and have more status. Power has come with information, and the women, without any help of ARDA, got together and started their own literacy school and persuaded their pastor and elders. But the work is not done. “There is a huge gap, especially in the area of being able to use the technology effectively,” explains Seember Nyager of ARDA. Some assistance is still needed in terms of becoming fully independent with the technology and they still need to work on literacy.
Listen to an inverview with Seember Nyager, from Nigeria
In Zambia, the Resource Co-operative Society helped empower women by giving them some ICT training on computers and on different open source software programmes in order to use the internet as a resource for accessing information. Initially the women were reluctant, thinking ICTs were for men and urbanites; but after seeing that they too can design pamphlets, do their own banking, etc. Their confidence has increased and have started to being creative with them. “Their incomes are increasing along with their confidence as they turn agriculture into a business and use the internet and other programmes as an avenue to advertise and market their goods,” says Issac Chanda, Executive director of the Resource Co-operative Society.
“More interviews are available in French”:http://www.apc.org/en/node/10173/