Cultivating Equality

Cultivating Equality: Bringing Evidence from the Field to Close the Agricultural Gender Gap

This theme will draw attention to programs, projects and strategies that have successfully integrated gender into design and implementation and lessons learned for future practice. The theme will explore programming insights focused on: effective ways to catalyse social and behavioural change for both agricultural and gender equality and social outcomes; gender–sensitive evaluation and impact assessment systems for continuous program improvement; and gender transformative approaches to the adoption of innovative technologies.

Five sessions on this theme were run over the three days.

  1. Transforming Household Gender Dynamics for FNS. Chair: Jayne Curnow
  2. Gender Transformative Approaches: Strategies and Emerging Evidence. Chair: Sally Moyle
  3. Assessing Impact on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. Chair: Deborah Hill
  4. Measuring Impact on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. Chair: Jo Caffery
  5. Innovative Practices Supporting Women's Work. Chair: Vicki Wilde


    Transforming Household Gender Dynamics for FNS

    Chair: Jayne Curnow

    Presented between 11am and 12:30pm on Wednesday, April 3, 2019.

    What does it take to translate research into practice?

    Sally Moyle


    New international initiatives signal strong commitment to agriculture and food security in the face of growing demand and climate-change challenges. With donor budgets under intense pressure, better translations of research into practice makes agricultural development programing more effective – that is evidence informed agricultural practice and policy. The question we need to ask is what does it take to translate this investment in research to improve practice? Evidence informed practice and policy requires not just investing in generating high quality evidence, but also investing in communicating that evidence in accessible formats to end users; identifying pathways for implementation; and partnering with development organisations to develop the capacity of communities to put that evidence into practice. This requires researchers to understand whom their research is seeking to influence and recognise the messy political factors that determine whether research is applied. Too often researchers overlook issues of gender and power in designing and conducting research. Agricultural practice always comes down to people, so researchers must grapple with all the questions that development practitioners do – who has power to influence whether the research is applied. Who is included/excluded from consideration? Who will likely be implementing the new practice (in a world where women do most of the agricultural labour – this is likely to be women). To influence practice researchers need to understand the complex world of gender norms and to promote gender equality in their work.

    Learning to work as a farming family team: Farmer responses to a gender-inclusive approach to agriculture extension

    Gloria Nema

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    This paper outlines major findings from the ‘family-based approaches’ research project conducted in East New Britain and the Highlands of PNG, as a combined partnership between the University of Canberra and CARE International in PNG. The University of Canberra’s Family Farms Teams and CARE’s Model Farming Families both work through the family unit to support couples to engage in more gender-equitable and inclusive planning and decision-making, and hence more effective sustainable farming practices. The research project applied a qualitative approach and used focus groups with men, women and youth, supplemented by one-to-one interviews, photo documentation through farm visits and piloted the ‘Ripple Effect Mapping’ tool in PNG. The research focused on understanding which approaches and methods within the two ’family-based approaches’ enabled women to negotiate more equitable farm and family roles and looked for any ripple effect through farmer-to-farmer learning in the local community. The paper will focus on the findings of the research including how family-based approaches can support gender equality and the economic empowerment of women in rural farming communities in PNG. It will also discuss implications of this research for the design of future agricultural extension that seek to engage both men and women in improved and gender-equitable family farming practices.


    Gendered fields: Changing gender roles in agricultural production and the impacts on food production – evidence from Australia, Laos and Bangladesh

    Margaret Alston


    Gendered labour roles in agriculture have been changing as women increase their physical labour contribution and participation in agricultural production. These changes are a result of a number of significant factors including particularly the uncertain production resulting from climate changes and environmental disasters, the consequent economic uncertainty and the social adjustments required within families to ensure income viability. Yet despite evidence from across the region that women play an increasingly significant role in agriculture and that food security is dependent on complex gendered relations, agriculture continues to be framed by industry leaders and media representations as a male-dominated activity. This in turn is facilitated by land ownership and inheritance practices being largely controlled by men and by policies and media representations that overlook women’s contributions. Yet it is increasingly evident that food security is threatened by a lack of acknowledgement of the increasing significance of women and by a failure to address the need for policy support and training for women. I present evidence from three studies – these were undertaken in the Murray-Darling Basin of Australia, in Laos and in Bangladesh. Each of these studies reveal not only the dominance of family-based production but also the changing gender dynamics in labour allocation including both on farm / agricultural unit and in the sourcing of off-farm remittance income. Drawing on these studies, I outline rapidly developing trends and the actions that are necessary to address both the invisibility of women and global food security.

    Revisiting women empowerment through a cultural lens

    Sarah De Smet

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    Women empowerment is defined by Kabeer as a process by which disempowered women acquire the ability to make strategic life choices. Internalized cultural subordination by the disempowered ones however might reflect choices which stem from and serve to reinforce women’s subordinate status. Therefore, some external influence is often needed for change to occur. For institutions that facilitate this change process however, it is important to not impose their own cultural values or assumptions about empowerment. Using the Van Tulder model, we offer a critical analysis of how implicit assumptions and values on the side of facilitators impacted a participatory intervention for empowering women in agriculture in Ethiopia. The argumentation is built around the cultural value of power distance, as defined by Hofstede (1980). We discuss how differences in power distance between the facilitator and local community affected an empowerment methodology at the level of assumptions, approach, intended and actual results. We reflect on how such empowerment methodologies, aimed at shifting power structures towards gender equality in high power distance cultures like Ethiopia, need to tailor their approach taking into account the difference in cultural values, from the very definition and operationalization of gender empowerment to sampling of participants and methods of facilitation and evaluation of results.


    Gender Transformative Approaches: Strategies and Emerging Evidence

    Chair: Sally Moyle


    PANEL 2: Gender Transformative Approaches: Strategies and Emerging Evidence

    • Afrina Choudhury
    • Cynthia McDougall
    • Ramona Ridolfi
    • Steven Cole

    This panel will unpack the concept of a gender transformative approach and bring together empirical insights from 3 cases, carried out by 2 organizations that have been pioneering this approach. The cases span Bangladesh, Cambodia and Zambia and the spheres of nutrition, technical aquaculture extension, and postharvest loss technologies.

    Choudhury, Afrina

    Merging the social with the technical: Utilising a Gender Transformative Approach in smallholder aquaculture development in Bangladesh.

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    A number of studies conducted in WorldFish-Bangladesh on small holder aquaculture technologies targeting women have shown limited adoption and benefits to women beyond the project lifecycle. This discrepancy between expected and actual outcomes arises because women, and men, exist in a multidimensional system of gender relations and norms which influence women’s ability to: gain and apply knowledge and skills to adopt or adapt technologies, achieve anticipated outcomes and share equitably in their benefits. This happens even though these technologies were introduced in an accommodating matter within the homestead sphere, where women are able to conform to their mobility constraints. To address any social and gender issues that may arise as a result of applying new knowledge or taking on new roles. WorldFish Bangladesh introduced various gender transformative strategies and tools at the household and community level, merging them with technical aquaculture outreach. This paper will discuss some of the strategies and tools WorldFish Bangladesh adapted, including partnering with HKI in Bangladesh to adapt their NC manual with aquaculture and utilising Promundo-AAS approach to engaging men. In fact, to engage communities in critical reflections around gender and social issues, aquaculture technologies served as an incentive. WorldFish Bangladesh used longitudinal quasi-experimental mixed methods research designs to understand the impacts of these gender transformative strategies. Early evidence shows that gender transformative approaches has softened the backlash from men against women’s technology uptake, more collaboration amongst family members around technology usage, enhanced nutritional consumption by target groups and attitudinal changes around women’s roles.

    McDougall, Cynthia

    Gender transformative approaches: Strategies and emerging evidence.

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    Decades of investment in closing gender gaps through accommodative and empowerment approaches in rural, developing country contexts and in relation to agricultural development have yielded progress – yet they have also fallen short of expectations. In particular, they have underperformed in terms of lack of sustained change, limits to empowerment or equality outcomes, or even negative outcomes such as backlash related to women-targeting. Critical analysis of these outcomes, the underlying mechanisms, and insights from other sectors led to the development of a complementary approach referred to as a gender transformative approach. This approach focuses on engaging with the barriers that underlie visible gender gaps, in particular the gender norms that perpetuate gender inequalities.

    Ridolfi, Ramona

    Nurturing Connections©: Advancing gender equality for improved nutrition and livelihoods.

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    Nurturing Connections© (NC) is HKI’s gender-transformative approach that challenges gender norms contributing to malnutrition and food insecurity. Given the negative impact on nutrition and livelihoods by gender and social inequalities, NC promotes gender and social transformation through a participatory approach based on community dialogue. Developed in Bangladesh in 2013, NC has been delivered through agriculture, health, and nutrition platforms, across multiple contexts, in Asia and Africa. The presentation will share HKI’s experience and process in adapting and implementing the approach through food security programs focused on poultry and aquaculture in Bangladesh and Cambodia. The presentation will also include ongoing monitoring and revision strategies to make NC context appropriate. A recent IFPRI assessment in Bangladesh demonstrated that combining agriculture, nutrition, and gender transformative sessions resulted in the most significant improvements in empowerment, including on women’s asset ownership and income decisions, as well as overall more equitable gender attitudes among both men and women. In Cambodia, important results included more equitable workload sharing processes and a 10% increase in women’s autonomy over food and cash crop farming. In Bangladesh, implementation of activities around a sensitive topic like gender poses the risk of backlash, particularly within conservative communities. Accordingly, HKI engaged the wider community, as an effective means of promoting understanding and reducing the risk of resistance. In Cambodia, some interactive group exercises required subsequent refinement and testing. The successful adaptation of NC across countries shows the flexibility of the approach for tackling gender inequalities in diverse contexts.

    Cole, Steven

    Gender transformative change along the capture fishery value chain: Panel evidence from the Barotse Floodplain, Zambia.

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    Technical and social constraints limit value chain actors from equitably engaging in and benefiting from capture fisheries in low-income settings. Development projects that aim to help address these barriers tend to focus on the technical over the social ones when designing and implementing interventions. This study presents insights from a research project that was implemented in six fishing camps in the Barotse Floodplain, Zambia from 2015 to 2017. The project developed and tested improved post-harvest fish processing technologies with value chain actors. The project also adopted both gender accommodative and gender transformative approaches, with the latter going beyond accommodative by addressing the unequal gender relations that constrain value chain actors. A gender transformative tool was developed comprising a manual with drama skits and questions that sparked critical reflection. The skits were acted out on three of the six fishing camps, while the gender accommodative approach was employed on all six camps. A women’s empowerment in fisheries survey was administered at baseline and endline with value chain actors who participated in the project testing the post-harvest processing technologies. The results indicate that the use of a transformative approach led to significant changes in gender attitudes and women’s empowerment outcomes compared to only using an accommodative approach. Development organizations can use the learning generated by the study to integrate gender transformative approaches that surface and address the unequal gender relations that constrain fishery-dependent people from making important life choices to improve their livelihoods.

    Assessing Impact on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

    Chair: Deborah Hill


    PANEL 3: Assessing Impact on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

    • Vidya Sachita Reddy Vemireddy
    • Maria del Milagro Nunez-Solis
    • Katja Mikhailovich

    Vemireddy, Vidya with Gupta, Soumya; Singh, Dhiraj; and Pingali, Prabhu L.

    Adapting the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index to specific country context: Insights and critiques from field work in India.

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    The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) has gained traction as a multidimensional indicator used for assessing empowerment levels in varied agricultural settings. In this paper we discuss how the Abbreviated- WEAI (AWEAI) was adapted to an Indian agricultural context in 2017. We analyze primary data for 3600 households across four districts in Bihar, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh to construct a modified WEAI based on sharper, context- specific and operational indicators of access, ownership and resources. This is accompanied by sensitivity analyses and robustness checks that contribute to the technical base for the WEAI. We find that at least 80% women across districts are disempowered in the five domains of agriculture, with the main contributors being a lack of membership of agriculture- specific self-help groups and a lack of ownership of agricultural land. When disempowerment thresholds are relaxed we find that there is a significant decline in the proportion of disempowered women, and it is this, relative to the increase in women’s average inadequacy scores that contributes to the higher 5DE scores as the thresholds are varied. Taken together our work highlights the field- level challenges in adapting a complex multi-dimensional index such as the AWEAI in India and recommends key modifications that other implementers in India may want to consider in their work.

    Nunez-Solis, Maria del Milagro with Ratna, Nazmun; and Rosin, Christopher

    Can micro coffee enterprises create opportunities for women? Evidence from Tarrazu coffee, Costa Rica.

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    In this paper we explore how coffee micro-mills in Costa Rica have enabled women to gain agency in the national and global value chain for Tarrazu coffee. Micro-mills are family owned enterprises, where producer process their coffee and sell it directly to specialty markets. The coffee commodity chain is characterised as one that perpetuates low incomes for family producers and significant profits for commercial roasters around the world. As a commodity, coffee is associated with intensive productions systems and the relegation of women to traditional household roles. Responding to consistently low prices under this model, Tarrazu coffee households have embraced the innovation of family owned micro-mills and are learning to integrate into the incipient Relationship Coffee Model market. Model that promotes long and fair relationships between buyers and producers based in coffee quality. Our results – informed by the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index and ‘power to’, ‘power with’ and ‘power within’ framework – showed that women involved in micro-mills are more empowered in decision making at processing coffee stages and have greater opportunities to owned significant assets. Moreover, they have been pioneers in attending coffee public spaces dominated by man and taking roles which require skilled capabilities such as coffee quality control, coffee sells and barismo. Coffee micro-mills represent an innovative example of how women empowerment in agriculture should not only focus in access to primary production, but, value-adding activities can also enhance empowerment and contribute to various Sustainable Development Goals targets related to gender equality and inclusive economic growth.

    Mikhailovich, Katja

    Pearl-based livelihood empowering women in Fiji.

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    Gender impact evaluations fundamentally consider issues of gender equality and changes to relationships of power that are inherent in different societies, cultures or social structures. There are many emerging approaches on how best to assess or measure gender related impacts. This presentation discusses an impact assessment study of mabé pearl aquaculture-based livelihood projects in Fiji. The assessment drew upon both gender impact and women’s socio-economic empowerment frameworks to identify domains and indicators against which to assess impact. The fundamental task of this assessment was to consider if involvement in selected pearl related projects provided livelihood and other socio-economic benefits to women. Overlaid across this task was the recognition that in different societies and cultures, there is considerable variability in gendered relationships and that any assessment of impact must consider the social and cultural context within which the assessment occurs. The evaluation utilized a case study analysis with individual and group interviews to generate stories for vignettes to communicate both context and benefits derived. The assessment of impacts found that the women participating in these development projects were on a pathway to empowerment with varying levels of achievements in relation to income, increased capacity in pearl related activities, access and control of productive assets, decision-making and leadership opportunities.

    Measuring Impact on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment

    Chair: Jo Caffery

    Facilitating transformative processes for measuring and promoting gender-behavior change in agriculture programming

    Maureen Miruka

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    with Hillenbrand, Emily; and Mohanraj, Pranati

    CARE’s approach to improving women’s empowerment and gender equality in the agriculture sector aims to challenge underlying social norms in three spheres: building agency, transforming relations and changing structures to address the root causes of gender discrimination. However, understanding change processes at intra-household and community level remains an uphill task for research and development practitioners, in part due to indicator determination and monitoring processes for capturing social change. CARE sought to address this specific challenge by adapting IFPRI’s Women Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) to develop the Women’s Empowerment Index (WEI) to capture elements of the 3 spheres for Pathways Women in Agriculture program. The resultant tool was applied at baseline to identify country-specific thresholds providing a quantitative composite empowerment score to highlight constraints across countries and to measure impact at end-line. Additionally, we applied elements of the Outcome Mapping approach (Outcome Challenges and Progress Markers) to define –with communities- five categories of concrete & progressive behavior change indicators for men and women, community leaders as well as those of staff involved in the respective program countries-Malawi, Mali and Ghana. This paper shares the process developing this overall framework for monitoring, evaluation and learning around women in agriculture empowerment; the resultant framework, and makes suggestions on how it may be useful for communities and institutions working around social norm change in the sector and beyond.

    Beyond income: A critical analysis of agency measurement in economic programming

    Minal Cabraal

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    with Saif, Samira; and Piracha, Maryam

    This paper presents findings from a recent critical analysis undertaken by the Market Development Facility, into how women’s agency is understood and measured in relation to an increased household income. MDF, an Australian-funded programme, is currently operating in Fiji, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Whilst it is understood that Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) is achieved through both agency and access, access has traditionally dominated programs’ efforts, as agency is more difficult to grasp and measure. Agency is multi-dimensional, yet often, simplistic assumptions are made about household income on women’s agency.The paper begins by exploring the effect of increased household income on WEE in the context of complex household dynamics, which showcases how access to economic inputs, information, opportunities or services impact agency. We explore an early conceptual framework that evaluates women’s power to make and act on economic decisions across seven dimensions. The framework is applied to identify the impact of different types of access interventions, using cases and findings from the five MDF countries. These dimensions show that access interventions can impact agency and therefore, overall economic empowerment. It can be powerful to have women at the point of transaction and interventions which focus on women who play supporting roles in economic activity, can also have positive impacts on empowerment. Through the presentation, we hope to explore how this conceptual framework can be developed into a tool to help teams navigate agency better and will encourage participants to share their thoughts and experiences regarding their own approaches.

    Monitoring and evaluation for increased impact – A digital solution for enhancing women’s access to agricultural information and extension services

    Pranati Mohanraj

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    Having access to timely, accurate and complete data is critical for development and humanitarian work in rural contexts and where great distances between stakeholders are an issue. However, generating timely and quality data is a complex endeavor and one that development practitioners continue to struggle with. Having access to geographic data and enabling feedback loops that reduce staff time spent on chasing data are also critical to program efficiency. CARE sought to address this challenge by working to improve monitoring, use and comparison of data, and enabling shorter and quicker feedback loops in its Pathways, Women in Agriculture Program. Using Android phones or tablets and an open- sourced software platform to improve performance tracking of producer groups, CARE developed and tested a mobile data platform for agriculture and food security programming in Tanzania, India, Bangladesh, Malawi and Ghana. This automated data collection system allowed CARE to 1) generate real-time data; 2) deepen and undertake action-oriented analytics; and 3) empower front-line staff and agricultural extension agents to more effectively diagnose specific challenges for tens of thousands women farmers and provide evidence-based advice and support. This paper details how technology for monitoring in agriculture programing contributes to women’s empowerment by providing them with the information and knowledge they need to maximize their yields and sell their crops at the highest possible price, enabling them to escape food insecurity.

    Innovative Practices Supporting Women's Work

    Chair: Vicki Wilde


    Knowledge is power: Modeling the effect of interactive radio programming on women’s empowerment and agricultural transformation in Malawi

    Catherine Ragasa

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    his study assesses the effect of interactive radio programming on women’s empowerment and agricultural development, utilizing a unique nationally-representative household panel dataset on Malawi (2016, 2018), linked to gender-disaggregated focus group discussions and interviews of service providers. Our results show that radio is the top source of agricultural and nutrition advice: younger women and men used radio more than other sources for their agricultural information needs; while younger and older men used radio more than other sources for nutrition education. Radio seems to be a critical delivery platform for nutrition education for men, circumventing strong gender norms on women’s role on domestic work and nutrition while men are usually teased or laughed at when attending nutrition-related trainings. Our results also show significant effect of interactive radio programming on both women’s and men’s empowerment scores (greater on women and younger men, the latter being the most disempowered in the sample). Mechanisms for this gendered outcome come from lower time burden (compared to time demands in attending training/meetings, women could listen to radio and learn while simultaneously doing their other work), and from the awareness campaigns and messages on gender equality, which were influential to both men and women listeners, therefore leading to changes in attitude and behavior. The listening clubs linked to the radio program were useful platforms that strengthened social capital and cooperation among listeners. The call centers and mobile apps, in which anyone can call for free, also helped in greater responsiveness of service provision to farmer’s demands.

    Proof of concept for the use of wearable sensors to monitor women and men’s workload and mobility in Indonesian agricultural communities

    Timothy Stewart

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    DFAT’s Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Rural Development (AIP-R) programme (2013-2018) worked to achieve large-scale sustainable poverty reduction through applying the market systems development (MSD) approach. This works through private and public sector actors in the ‘system’ to benefit smallholder women and men rather than working directly. Furthermore, it aimed to enhance gender outcomes, e.g. by improving women’s agency over income, and improving labour productivity. AIP-R therefore sought to understand the roles of women and men so that the positive impacts from MSD interventions could be enhanced, and potential negative impacts mitigated. However gathering accurate, objective and impartial data on the division of labour between women and men in farming households poses significant challenges because prevailing methods rely on recall and self-reporting: e.g. household surveys, focus-group discussions and time-use diaries, which are often inaccurate and subject to biases. Low-cost smartphones and wearable sensors (e.g. FitbitTM) provide an opportunity to make empirical observations of individuals. A unique proof of concept of this technology was conducted in Eastern Indonesia though collaboration between AIP-R, University of Canberra and ONMI Design. This yielded valuable and interesting data that challenged assumptions of how women and men’s time is spent on agricultural and non-agricultural activities, including the intensity and duration of labour, mobility (how far people travel), waking hours, and other indicators. It also developed protocols, ethical guidelines, analytical tools and guidance on the application and limitations of the technology for AIP-R and other programs seeking to improve their understanding of women and men’s livelihoods.

    Designing options to narrow gender gaps in agricultural value chains using a resilience lens: Evidence from the Tahoua region of Niger

    Caitlin Nordehn

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    This paper explores an emerging understanding of how to integrate attention to gender issues within a resilience framework to better design options to improve agriculture value chain actors’ wellbeing in zones commonly impacted by shocks and prolonged periods of stress. This paper draws on evidence from a gender and value chain assessment, applying the Integrating Gender Issues in Agricultural Value Chains methodology, conducted for the USAID-funded 12/12 Alliance Project, implemented by Lutheran World Relief in the Tahoua and Maradi regions of Niger. In the targeted project value chains, onion, cowpea, wheat, and sheep, women experience greater constraints than men accessing and controlling high quality land, irrigation technologies, labour, extension and advisory services, and income to participate in and enhance performance through these value chains as well as access and control benefits through their participation. The findings illuminate the key factors, particularly social capital, that support women’s entry into different nodes of value chains as well as their ability to make strategic choices to absorb, adapt, and transform when confronted by climatic and socio-political disturbances. The paper then highlights effective approaches for designing evidence-based gender-responsive and gender-transformative project interventions to close agricultural gender gaps and strengthen women’s and men’s absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities in agricultural communities.

    When talk is not cheap. Boosting women’s agribusinesses through dialogue: Results and lessons from Kenya and Vietnam

    Leonie Hoijtink

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    with Bui Lien, Phuong; Muthoki, Charles; and Brandes, Raymond


    How to transform inhibiting social norms to provide women of rural households with opportunities to run viable and sustainable agribusinesses? This is one of the central questions in the Enhancing Opportunities for Women’s Enterprises (EOWE) project, operating in Kenya and Vietnam. Implemented by SNV – The Netherlands Development Organisation and funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands (DGIS), EOWE runs from 2016 to 2020. After 2.5 years of implementation, lessons and tangible changes are emerging. The project has three main pillars of work: 1) working with government to implement national equity laws, 2) working with women with a (micro)enterprise to enhance their business skills and 3) working with communities, husbands and wives through behavior change communication to create a “new normal” of gender equitable behavior in households. Results are tracked and triangulated via mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, such as change stories from husbands and wives and the a-WEAI methodology developed by IFPRI. Data show some progress towards changing social norms, divisions of labour and decision- making at household level, although not only in ways that were anticipated. At its halfway point, EOWE’s activities show that a small-scale, time-intensive and focused approach can achieve some first steps towards more gender-equitable behaviour in households.