By Fredrick Nyagah- Gender Technical Specialist, USAID/CLEAR Program
Addressing gender inequalities is critical for sustainable development and is prioritized as the 5th Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more evident because of the unequal impact of the pandemic on the different genders with women bearing the heaviest burden such as increased gender-based violence (GBV), early pregnancies during confinements and unpaid labor amongst others. A recent study by USAID’s CLEAR Program, implemented by Global Communities, revealed that 40% of Kenyan cooperatives reported observing a significant increase in GBV. While cooperative members have equally been negatively impacted by the gender disparities aggravated by the pandemic, cooperatives play an important role as community leaders who can influence public opinion about gender equality. Improving gender equity and good governance in cooperatives is critical to achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment. This involves transforming gender norms in cooperative leadership, embracing changing roles and gender power dynamics as well as addressing negative outcomes of the later such as gender based violence.
In February 2021, CLEAR piloted the Draft Training Guide on Gender Equity and Good Governance by training cooperatives leaders and County Cooperative Officers. This initiative reached cooperative officers and cooperators from 10 counties and 3 cooperatives respectfully. The training led the participants commit to transform cooperatives in their counties by: strengthening the capacity of staff and cooperative members through sensitization meetings; implementing the 2/3 gender-rule during the elections; having gender-responsive budgeting; supporting economic activities that directly benefit women developing code of conduct to prevent GBV; establishing sub-committees to mitigate on GBV cases and introduction of mediation centers among others.
The modules covered during the four days online training included: Values clarification on Gender and cooperatives; Gender and Gender Norms; Gender Mainstreaming in Cooperatives; GBV and Sexual harassment; Governance in Cooperatives and conflict management. The training not only improves gender equity in cooperatives but also in the households. Some cooperative Officers after the training shared:
“Personally I am different from when I began the training and I will be able to bring change when I go back” – Margaret, a Cooperative Officer from Kilifi County.
“It has been an eye opener. We will change our mindset so that we can change others” – Nelson, a Cooperative Officer from Narok County.
Improving gender equity and good governance in cooperatives is beneficial to both the cooperatives and members, especially women members who are more disadvantaged by gender inequalities. For example, it leads to improved conditions of work and more time for income earning activities; increased decision-making roles; more participation in community affairs; and improved access to business capital and market. Cooperatives have opportunity for increased profits; greater employment options and diverse skills; increased capacity and diversity in investments; and economies of scale from larger projects. All these aspects conglomerate to build resilience of cooperatives and members to withstand shocks due to a wide range of resources and actors.
The Program will roll-out these trainings to the Counties using the Gender Equity training guide once it is finalized after the piloting. In as much as the COVID-19 is an impediment to the physical training that had been envisioned, quick learning and adaptation by the program has enabled the continuity of the program activities and even opened a window of opportunity to have a two pronged approaches of delivery i.e. physical and virtual training.