Policies Regarding the Rural Women’s Component Projects in the Developments of Women in the Muslim Countries

All the women own cattle, sheep, and goats, acquired through gifts, inheritance, and purchases from sales of milk products or grains.

From their respective food Fields, men are responsible for supplying the household’s millet and sorghum requirements, women, for supplying beans, onions, vegetables, and peppers.

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Women’s own grain production is at their disposal and mostly sold. While men’s livestock activities in the project were organised through herdsmen’s associations, women’s were added to the project in a later component centering on an “animation feminine” expert who was also responsible for promoting vegetable cultivation, crafts, basic literacy, and the introduction of appropriate household technology.

Due to problems in recruiting this expert, women’s livestock activities did not commence until one and a half years after the start of the project.

In the meantime an assistant anima trice started that part of the women’s component which emphasized their family roles.

An initial set of baseline data failed to pick up conflicts between demands on women’s time. Included in the recommendation for women’s livestock activities was a concentration of births of animals in the rainy season when for age material was most plentiful.

This would also provide surplus milk for cheese-making during the rainy season for later consumption and sale.

Technically promising from the livestock reproduction and cheese-making viewpoint, this strategy presented problems for women’s other activities.

Their workload of planting, weeding and harvesting corps in one short rainy season was already heavy.

Dealing with a peak of animal births, milking and cheese-making in addition was just not feasible. While the cheese-making in itself might be highly profitable it would have been at the cost of foregoing some other production.

Moreover, concentrating animal births, and therefore milk supply increments, in one season lessened milk availability for consumption and sale at other times of the year when agricultural production was lower.

It was only when a second base line study was undertaken that these contradictions were brought to light, and it was realised that the incentives to women to follow the proposed strategy were far from clear. In the meantime men’s, quite separate, herding component had gone ahead.

What this case study reveals is the inferior planning of women’s production activities when they are not planned at the same time and given the same status as men’s.

Delaying adequate baseline studies and expecting women’s production activities to start only when the “women’s component” is ready to absorb them leads to these activities being given a low priority and being badly designed.

But compared with another project to reconstitute herds in Mauretania, and a project to improve animal breeds in Benin, for which women were not even mentioned in the project documents, it did make great efforts to integrate women without an established methodology to guide it.

A footnote to rehabilitation after drought and loss of herds might suitably be inserted here. It has already been noted that individually-owned livestock are obtained through inheritance, dowry, or bride wealth.

Ownership of cattle is important to women in the event of divorce, and for women’s standing in the household. But programmes for the post-drought constitution of Fulani and Tuareg herds gave cattle only to men.

Although women should continue to enjoy rights of disposal of the milk and milk products from cows which they care for, their position in the household could be weakened for a generation or two until cattle have been used again for dowry and bride wealth.

Small livestock, such as chickens and goats, are usually exclusively in women’s sphere. Eggs and cheese may be sold before the family’s nutritional requirements are met because women need a flow of cash income for other household necessities.

Projects designed to increase the products of small livestock is frequently aimed primarily at improving the family’s nutrition.

But they require extra labour and cash inputs. It is not always clear where the cash requirements are to come from, if not from greater sales.

Nor can it be easily assumed that women see putting more labour into further self-provisioning output as more important than putting more labour into output for sale.

In view of women’s often repeated demands to be assisted to earn more money there is something fundamentally a miss in agricultural departments helping men to grow more grains for the market and home economics departments encouraging women to raise output of proteins for family consumption; particularly when women sell foods of high nutritional value in order to buy greater volumes of food of less nutritional value.

It may make neither nutritional nor economic sense to allocate scarce resources to greater protein intake if there is a current calorie deficit. Poultry projects have a poor record, with bird’s dying from disease.

The explanation is often assumed to be the vulnerability of the new breeds introduced. But it is tempting to believe that an unrecognised problem is that the women themselves are unconvinced of the value of the projects.

2. Women’s Component Project: Yemen Arab Republic:

The activities of the various section of a project should be integrated. One of the main goals of this project was to assess the potential for irrigation as well as analysing the need for the supply of drinking water. However, the water management section upto the time of the case study had not undertaken any activity to educate the village women on water use and hygiene.

3. Women’s Component Project: Ethiopia:

In the SIDA project in Ethiopia, the case study reported that the women’s component in this project was limited to home economics courses including hygiene, child care, home improvement (light carpentry) and clothing repair. Course content should have been made more pertinent to rural life and the other development aims of the project.

However, the need for relevance was not rated highly by the managers of the project. Although the course content was developed to help rural women, the actual role of women as producers and active farmers was not understood.

One of the problems in project design related to the introduction of a women’s component in a general project, is the vague definition of the target group as “the farmers”, the “rural population”, or slightly more specific, “the rural poor”.

The project management translated these vague terms to mean “mature male farmers”, thus limiting the target group by age and sex.

In project areas where farming is the main economic activity and where women are actively engaged in agriculture, women should by definition be included in the target group.

According to the study carried out by SIDA, a special women’s component in rural development projects would be useful where,

“(a) the women are culturally isolated tends would be helped and strengthened by a separate programme which addresses their problems, in addition to agricultural extension services; (b) women are primarily engaged in subsistence activities other than agriculture”.

4. Women’s Component Project: Indonesia:

In Indonesia, as elsewhere, the traditional roles of rural women are important for the cultivation of certain crops and the production of handicrafts.

A special Transmigration Area Development (TAD) sub-project for the development of activities addressed to transmigrate women was financed by the German government.

Data was gathered on the socio-economic situation of women in the project area which identified the main problems for women low literacy rates; high fertility; lack of crop variety resulting in an unbalanced diet and malnutrition low productivity and incomes; lack of extension services for women; and the lack of women’s organisations at the local level.

Close co-operation with TAD experts in agriculture, rural training and extension, aquaculture and health assured the integration of the women’s component in the main stream of project objectives.

Other reasons for success in the short-term, so far, have been the solicited’ active participation of the specific target groups in the planning of new project activities; and an approach including a “package of measures” addressed to inter­related problems rather than the proposal of uni-dimensional solutions.

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