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A Day in The Life of a (Female) Community Knowledge Worker

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Agriculture CKW ICT4D
Posted on November 05, 2009

Whitney Gantt is ICT Innovation Technical Program Officer, at Grameen foundation Uganda.

Right now we’re in a planning phase—which ultimately means we’re wrestling with the “big” challenges that become even more significant at scale.  We’re building partnerships to begin recruiting Community Knowledge Workers (CKWs) in early 2010 and that has me thinking about one of those challenges: how do we ensure that female farmers have an equal opportunity to participate as CKWs and that they have the same access to services offered through the CKW channel?

In the pilot we learned that women do most of the manual labor in farming in Uganda and will often be the decision makers when it comes to adopting new agronomic techniques.  Our observations also show that they’re less likely to own their own phones and to approach a male CKW.  During the pilot, 33% of CKWs were women, but if we really want to reach female farmers we will need to recruit equal women and men to participate in the program and ensure that both enjoy the same benefits.  So how do we do it?

It will take time to answer that question but we can start by documenting and understanding the barriers that prevent women from becoming CKWs—recruitment criteria such as literacy, fluency in English, and even the timing and location of recruitment sessions make it more difficult for women to participate.  Once they make the cut, they face additional challenges when compared with their male counterparts.  For example, Agnes, a CKW in Mbale, wakes up at 5am to go dig in her garden, where she takes care of everything from planting to weeding to pest and disease management. She returns home around 9am and cuts grass for the cow and then fetches water for the cow and the house, cleans the compound, and goes and gathers food for the day.  Around noon she prepares lunch for her family.

After lunch, she leaves to go conduct surveys.  Agnes’ husband is supportive of her work and she shares part of the airtime and cash payments she earns for her CKW activities with him.  On days when she has to travel far to conduct surveys, she will hire someone to work in the garden and to ride her around on a bicycle.  At the end of the day it’s Agnes’ turn to relax and she has her daughters make dinner while she goes to the trading center to enjoy time with her neighbors.

While we haven’t yet solved the dilemma, by talking with Agnes and other female CKWs, we were able to understand the barriers to women’s participation and the additional challenges they face as CKWs.  By starting with input of female CKWs themselves, we’ve gained insight on how we can support women, what motivates them, and ideas for how we can address gender bias over time.

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