Gender Summit 18 – Africa Highlights

Since 2011, the Gender Summit has provided a forum for scientists, gender scholars, policymakers, research institutes, funding organisations & civil society to discuss research evidence and chart pathways for improvements. Initially set up for the European science community, the Gender Summit has subsequently expanded to North America, Africa, and the Asia Pacific, linking critical players across various sectors around the globe to engage in joint and transformative actions to advance understanding of gender issues towards sustainable and effective research and innovation.

GS18: A Virtual Summit

The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) and Portia Ltd recently hosted a virtual edition of the 18th Gender Summit (GS18) from November 23rd to December 2nd, 2020. Organised on the side-lines of the virtual Next Einstein Forum Global Gathering (NEF-GG), the event was themed ‘‘Agriculture through a gender lens: from surviving to thriving in a climate changing world”.  GS18 came on the heels of GS14, hosted by AIMS, together with Portia Ltd, in 2018 as a NEF-GG 2018 pre-event. The partnership between AIMS and Portia has contributed to the continuity of the Gender Summit Africa series and equally reinforced AIMS’ commitment to gender inclusion and diversity, notably the promotion of African women in science.

Advancing Gender Knowledge in Agricultural Research

The summit set out to advance one of the continent’s most pressing problems of shifting the paradigm in agriculture from one where women and marginalized groups strive to survive, to a sector where they have the skills, space, and opportunity to harness knowledge and technology to fuel their empowerment. The discussions focused on how scientific understanding of biological and ecological factors, together with knowledge of socio-cultural conditions, could be effectively deployed to transform resilience and quality of crops and livestock and farming practices into evidence-based, sustainable and holistic agricultural systems, in which women, youth and mencould fully and equally participate and thrive.

Speaking at the summit, Lydie Hakizimana, AIMS CEO stated: “Our commitment to scientific excellence goes hand in hand with a deliberate approach to promote gender equity and inclusion, dovetailing with SDG 5 which sets out to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. To apprehend issues affecting men and women unequally, we work to ensure that our programs are gender-sensitive, by making gender mainstream across all our initiatives. Ensuring fuller participation of African women in research, innovation and development is one of the objectives of the Gender Summit and the most efficient way to create the knowledge needed to build smart and fair innovation ecosystems in Africa, and for Africa,” she said. 

Elizabeth Pollitzer, Director of Portia Ltd and Founder of the Gender Summit Platform echoed these sentiments: “The 18th Gender Summit will demonstrate the importance of advancing gender knowledge into agricultural research and farming practices in Africa, as the best way to achieve food and nutrition security for all. The diverse collection of GS18 speakers: scientists, gender scholars and development specialists, from across Africa and beyond, will pave the way for effective science-society-stakeholder collaborations to ensure that the “zero hunger” mission of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 will “not leave women behind,” she said.

Increasing the Participation of Women

There has been some tangible progress on the global front, notably in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), where people living in extreme poverty declined by more than half, while the proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions fell by almost half. Primary school enrolment rate in the developing regions reached 91 per cent, with many more girls in school than the year 2000. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) development are a relevant, sustainable path to drive these achievements, reiterated in SDG 5.

However, Agenda 2030 seems to be leaving women behind, as no country is on track to attaining gender equality. The participation of women in research has only increased marginally, with challenges in climate change adaptation practices and education levels and acute disadvantage engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Policy Recommendations

Policy recommendations emanating from GS18 discussions focused on: government and other funding agencies considerations of intersectionality of gender, climate change, and agriculture in their development and funding program designs; advancing evidence-based policies and practices; mainstreaming gender-responsive research approaches into R&D; advancing research at the intersection of gender, agriculture and climate change; responding to the realities of gender-sensitive development in agricultural, food, and related sectors; promoting inclusivity and diversity in editorial boards; creating pathways for African women in science leadership; and empowering citizens as knowledge makers.

The recommendations underscored the importance of collaboration for increased visibility, intersectionality for sustainable and innovative solutions, research-informed gender policymaking, and tailored funding policies to address specific needs, based on data. Other issues highlighted focused on training and sensitisation to raise awareness, the adoption of AI, IT and Biological Control technologies to enhance productivity and multisectoral collaboration for advancement.

The Gender Summit Africa platforms present and discuss research from a gender perspective towards a scientific understanding of issues that are important to Africa, to ensure that research outcomes and applications benefit women and men equally, and chart pathways for improvements.