– Internationella Kvinnodagen 2022 – Celina Butali

”When we don’t involve women, we are shooting ourselves in the foot”

Celina Butali works for Vi Agroforestry Eastern Africa, as the regional gender, children and youth advisor. To Celina, the International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the many positive changes that have happened to create equality. It is important to make deliberate commitments to structural and social changes needed to make gender equality a reality. An important milestone in the pursuit of gender equality, according to Celina, was the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995. Not only was it the starting point for discussion about gender equality, but also a conference in which deliberate plans and actions on how gender equality can be realized across the world were made.

Vi Agroforestry Eastern Africa operates within four countries – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda. One thing these four countries have in common, Celina explains, is that they all are patriarchal in nature, which means men have dominance over women. This leads to many difficulties for women to, for example, access productive resources such as land to the extent that they would like to. Celina explains that Vi Agroforestry recognizes these challenges women face and provides opportunities for women to participate in decision-making on all levels – household and other levels. Women are also being included within management and leadership, which Celina emphasizes leads to women being able to participate on all levels and also get involved in agriculture value chains.

“When we don’t involve women, we are shooting ourselves in the foot”

So, what does agroforestry have to do with gender equality? Celina explains that women traditionally have been the custodians of indigenous knowledge on natural regeneration and their interaction with natural resources traces far back in time. Their indigenous knowledge of nature has been passed down through generations, and it is beneficial for all in order to further utilize natural resources. Celina explains that there is a lot of untapped indigenous knowledge, and to not involve women would be like, in her own words, “shooting ourselves in the foot.”.

Women’s expertise can help solve the problems of climate change and poverty, and so that interests and concerns are put into consideration but also the knowledge they have plays a significant role in the response and recovery processes of the climate change crisis.

Celina explains that climate change affects women in Vi Agroforestry’s target group in terms of them having to walk longer distances in search of food and water because of drought. They also face the risk of getting stuck because of flooding and thus becoming unable to access food and health care.

“There needs to be a lot more work done beyond policy and legislation […] so that
they can translate policy into action.”

In the last decade, Kenya – the country in which Celina works – has made efforts to enhance gender equality through legislation and policy reforms, which has led to significant changes in health, education, parliamentary representation etc.. However, Celina says that since structural and societal gender norms still exist, more effort needs to be made in order to translate policy into real action. Women and girls are still limited in what they are allowed to do, and poverty increases their vulnerability and the risks of their rights to be abused. Furthermore, Celina says that the Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in gender-based violence and loss of economic opportunities for women – not being able to take their farm produce to the market as a result of the lockdowns and curfews. It also increased unpaid care work as a result of school and thereby children not going to school. Women also took care of sick family members.  This unpaid work within the household often goes unnoticed.

“When women are given an opportunity to grow, then they change their families,
communities and societies at large.”

In a few final words, Celina emphasizes that when women, especially in rural communities, are given the opportunity to grow, they change families, communities, and societies at large. Through agroforestry practices they can increase crop produce and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change. Furthermore, an adoption of sustainable land management practices will ensure that current generations are secured of food while simultaneously guaranteeing that future generations will have the same.


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