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Home > Blogs > Water and Food Blog > Gender in the CPWF: Lessons Learned

After ten years, the Challenge Program on Water and Food is completing its second and final phase at the end of 2013. Reflection on progress made, milestones reached and lessons learned is beginning in earnest. One of the issues open for reflection and discussion at this point is how Phase II of the CPWF treated gender and any lessons to be derived at this point.

This brief paper is an overview of how the CPWF program-level treated gender, some of the outcomes, and recommendations for how to do this better in the future. It was prepared for presentation to a CGIAR Research

credit: Nile BDC Flickr

credit: Nile BDC Flickr

Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) Gender Workshop convened to inform the emerging WLE Gender Strategy.

Phase 2 of the CPWF was designed as a multi-disciplinary Research for Development program, working at a basin scale to address one central challenge in each of the six basins selected. Each Basin Development Challenge (BDC) was addressed by a number of linked research projects, under coordination of a Basin Leader and consortium lead institution. The BDCs focused on generating research outputs that could contribute to development outcomes and impact—via an articulated theory of change along outcome pathways.

Phase II of the CPWF was a study in adaptive management—with the actual model of R4D evolving as experiences were collected and lessons learned. Given their different contexts and phasing of implementation the six basin programs of Phase II each followed slightly different pathways. Some basin programs were put together through competitive bids, while latter basins were built upon commissioned research.

Gender was not highlighted at the outset of Phase II of the CPWF, nor articulated as a critical issue at the level of any of the six basin programs, despite gender being mentioned in the initial call for proposals/expressions of interest and explicit in CPWF’s program principles. As each basin program was constituted of a number of individual projects, gender within the research was more likely to emerge at that level.

The CPWF program was hosted by IWMI and closely linked to WLE from its inception. The CPWF Management/Program Team was responsible for direction, management, overall science quality, compliance, M & E, and Knowledge Management – in short its mandate was to enable the evolution and application of a model of R4D from the basin programs that would contribute to real development outcomes. Each basin program was led by some sort of ‘coordination and change’ project or mechanism.

Following discussions by the Management Team (MT) in late 2010, in January 2011 a brief discussion of gender was held with a sub-group of the CPWF team, including management, program staff and basin leaders. It emerged from the discussion that while there was some gender expertise within the group, there was no real shared minimum level of understanding of concepts related to gender. There was, however, recognition that CPWF R4D needed to demonstrate a step change in its integration of a gender perspective.

CPWF—Where is the gender?

  1. Not explicit in any of the six basin challenges—implicit in all of them (but where and is this good enough?). As we come to CPWF closure at the end 2013 we are now seeing where gender is. However, this is late, unsystematic and without follow-up in 2014 will go largely unrecognized.
  2. Responsibility ‘given’ to the  Coordination & Change (C&C) projects
    • No set aside budget for gender (like for reflection). Expectation that C & C projects would “look after” gender.
    • No MT lead at set up (by mid-2011 one MT member and one Basin Leader take on co-lead of CPWF gender initiative)
    • Basin Gender Awareness Training (Program Team, January 2012)
    • BDC Gender Audits—Where is gender in project design, implementation
    • Gender Checklist—A thought provoking checklist for ensuring that project activities are gender aware
    • A sustained gender conversation from 2011 to end 2013 across the CPWF project teams (prompting specific gender research)
    • Gender as a specific cross-basin learning component in the 2011 CPWF International Forum on Water and Food.
  1.  MT gender ‘balanced’ but so what? One-third of Basin Leaders were women.
  2. CPMT sought and received CPWF Board support for a “gender initiative” with a clearly stated goal to address both gender in the research and a gender transformative approach. The Board quickly sees interest in CPWF’s ability to implement practical actions that move away from discourse while also providing lessons that could influence IWMI and WLE. Does this create an accountability mechanism?
  3. A small grant fund (CPWF Innovation Fund) was accessed to work on gender and generated significant outcomes:

What worked?

  • Training/awareness raising at various levels: start with needs assessment and design trainings to fill gaps, meet specific needs. It was worth the investment. Assessments/gender stock taking even when undertaken late in the programme life proved to be valuable.
  • Sharing the expertise: companion science where social scientists/gender experts within the teams spent time with, accompanied engineers and modellers.
  • Follow-up & follow through: drop and go not sufficient for delivery
  • Integration rather than isolation: the approach of making sure that gender was present where necessary (in survey design, innovation platforms, models, m & e system) throughout projects rather than isolating ‘gender projects’ seemed to work. Ideal would have been to integrate gender at design, but that opportunity was often missed.
  • Gender was increasingly seen within a wider consideration of power and alongside dynamics of youth, indigenous people, religious difference, etc.
  • Concrete documentation emerging from each basin programme covering both research pieces and process of gender integration.

What could have been done better?

  • Not a driving factor at PROGRAM level
  • Not a driving factor WITHIN basin programs
  • Varied integration & treatment across projects

Lessons Learned:

  • Critical mass of gender experts/social scientists available to teams is critical
  • Ensure genuine leadership
  • Gender: Isolate it or integrate it? Know what you are aiming for and invest in it
  • Fund it—set aside a budget for gender integration
  • Reward it (or punish): Incentives
  • Make it practical
  • Value multiple strategies which recognise and demonstrate centrality of gender in the research AND the necessity of individual and organisational cultural change.

 General lessons on R4D of relevance:

  • Build upon what works, has been established—outcomes may NOT be reached in 3 year cycles
  • Reflection, learning and communication are not cheap or easy but pay huge returns on investment
  • Prepare professionals to replace themselves, capacity building and bending the hierarchies
  • Understand different mandates, the value of multiple voices and the role of engagement and dialogue.

Amy Sullivan, Aliness Mumba, Afrina Choudury and Amanda Harding

January 2014 

Learn more about CPWF’s work on gender.