I spoke with a trusted NINAYO advisor last week, and she pointed out how few women were featured in of our recent training pictures.
She was right to point this out- our most recent training had zero women attending. Fortunately, our team had already developed a plan to address this. But before we share that, here are four reasons why we think it is important to invest in a female engagement strategy for our products:
1. We feel a social responsibility to empower women in East Africa.
2. While women may not often do the physical sales transactions in Tanzanian agriculture, they can be very influential in the home. If women understand the opportunity presented by NINAYO, they are likely to encourage their husbands to engage with our services.
3. Studies have shown that among smallholder farmers, when women have control of the finances they are more likely to invest it in the home. This includes agro inputs and other services NINAYO provides. When our farmers do better, we do better.
4. It’s bad for our brand to be neutral on the gender of our customer base. Many of our clients have quotas that pertain to female engagement rates.
However, in order for us to successfully implement a plan to increase more female users, it is necessary to understand the drivers for why we have had so few. There are social challenges we face in on-boarding women to our platforms, which NINAYO must take into consideration, such as:
- We are operating in a Muslim populated region. There are traditional gender roles that NINAYO needs to be respectful of. However, even beyond these religious traditions, within Tanzania, the men tend to make the economic decisions for the household. Empowering farmers with greater economic decision making power is the very purpose of NINAYO, so it stands to reason that we would attract interest from men primarily.
- NINAYO would arrogant to presume that women want to be making the economic decisions. Many women may prefer not to be economic iconoclasts. The annual income of an entire family is at stake with the sale of their maize. Quite reasonably, women may prefer that their husbands take the lead on this, especially considering that the middlemen can be very exploitative, especially to women.
As you can see, it’s a complex situation. Here’s are the two action items NINAYO has decided to invest in:
- We are setting up extra training sessions that are women only. We hope to create a setting where women can understand our value proposition and freely discuss the challenges faced as women in agriculture
- We are also beginning a program to train women from key villages to lead these female only trainings. This will build independent incomes, education and hopefully be a legitimate pathway to a greater role for females in economic decision making among smallholder farmers.
We welcome any feedback on how we could improve these efforts.
Thanks for reading!