Robyn Johnston is a senior researcher at the International Water Management Institute.
Yesterday I went to a seminar on planning for the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS). About a quarter of the presentation was on approaches to gender.
Two things stood out to me:
First, I understand the history that has led to this focus on gender as the central social theme in scientific programs, but if you look at it objectively, it is quite weird – we structure our programs around something that, while it is relevant to the science in some contexts, is central in very few.
Population growth, on the other hand, is completely central to any discussion of either food security or environment.
Overconsumption and overpopulation underlie every environmental problem we face today.
What if we started using population as our central social theme, instead of gender? What if we put the same effort into structuring programs that raised awareness of and changed attitudes to the impact of population growth on environment and livelihoods?
Would it change what we do?
Second, it is interesting that we seem to have evolved an understanding in CGIAR that “gender” actually refers to a much broader set of concerns relating to vulnerable groups and equity more generally. But I am reasonably certain that the nuance has slipped past the rest of the world, and when we say “gender” they hear “women vs men”. So in terms of communicating what we are doing to our partners and the public, we have a fairly significant gap in understanding. We need a new word. How about we say what we actually mean, and use “equity”?