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Identifying gender-responsive approaches in rural advisory services that contribute to the institutionalisation of gender in Pakistan

Lamontagne-Godwin, J., Cardey, S., Williams, F. E., Dorward, P. T., Aslam, N., Almas, M.
Thejournal of agricultural education and extension 2019 v.25 no.3 pp. 267-288
extension agents, farmers, females, food security, males, social networks, women in agriculture, Pakistan
Unequal reach and access to information is an issue that affects women involved in agricultural activities around the world. Recent initiatives to address gender unequal access to agricultural information have been clumsy, overlooking participatory approaches that focus on transformative change. This study uses Pakistani rural advisory services to compare farmers' and extension workers’ perceptions of access to agricultural information, to identify culturally acceptable gender-responsive schemes. One-hundred and eleven extension workers in Pakistan’s public rural advisory services were interviewed and crosstabulated with farmers’ answers in previous studies. Male extension workers are aware that women access less information less often; however they might not be aware of its importance in the gender inequality debate. Lead farmers could offer a potentially transformative knowledge pathway because of its blend of formal and informal interactions – both systems favoured by female smallholders. An exclusively female-led lead farmer approach could be developed and trialled in specific areas of the province. Targeted initiatives focusing on improving awareness and importance of gender inequalities in information access as well as specific extension system development centred on lead female farmers and extension agents are important in institutionalising gender and creating transformative change. Linking these activities to in-depth social network and agricultural innovation system analyses would provide further evidence of the importance of focused gender activities and their impact on food security. This paper highlights the importance of analysing individual perceptions to understand the types of initiatives that could be considered for a wider institutionalisation of gender in RAS.