Making the invisible visible: Gendered Data Collection
By: Ariel Garsow
Gender and food safety are interconnected because gender roles determine the distribution of food safety resources and responsibilities between men and women. Women in low and middle income countries such as Ethiopia carry a disproportionate responsibility because their traditional roles place them in charge of food production, handling and preparation.
Last August, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for a gendered data collection course at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. During this course, we discussed how gender, nutrition and food safety are interconnected. Through this course, I gained a deeper understanding of how lack of access to resources due to gender disparities effect food safety worldwide.
One of the activities that we completed was a 24-hour clock to look at the differences in how typical small holder male and female farmers spend their time in a typical day. We split up the men and women in the class into two separate groups. The men were assigned the task of creating a 24-hour clock of the typical day of a woman who farms on a small plot of land, also called a woman smallholder farmer. The women were assigned the opposite, making a 24-hour clock of the typical day of a male smallholder farmer.
A picture of the status of the groups doing the activity after 15 minutes. The men were still busy at work while the women were chatting since they finished the activity.
The pictures of the typical day for a small-holder male farmer, left, and female farmer, right.
As shown in the photos above, this activity creates a pictorial representation of reality that allows for an open discussion of gender roles and equality. For example, one of the men in the group commented that he “had no idea” that women spent so much of their time working compared to men.
These types of tools are useful because they reveal the food safety practices in a community by showing who does what activities during the day such as harvesting crops, milking cows and food preparation. This information can also be used to see when most individuals are available to have conversations and trainings around food safety can occur, increasing the potential impact that can be made.
Following this exercise, we visited several small holder dairy producers in the area surrounding Addis Ababa to conduct a gender analysis of the food safety practices in the dairy value chain. These types of conversations are important because they can lead to the development of best food handling practices that are specific for a community. For example, one of the women we spoke with stated that she stores the milk she collects from her cows in the evening in a container in a cold water bath until the milk can be collected the next morning. She stated that she does this because she had attended a dairy food safety course in a nearby town where she learned that it is important to keep the milk cold to limit bacterial growth. One of the course instructors was also at the woman’s house and indicated that she had purposefully invited women to the diary food safety course because in the village the woman are the primary ones responsible for milking and making cheese. This is just one example of the linkage between gender roles and food safety.
Examining gender roles in value chains allows for the creation of interventions for those who are more likely to be able to change behaviors to reduce foodborne contamination. Future food safety trainings need to understand gender roles to target the correct audiences in order to be effective in reducing exposure to foodborne pathogens.
If you are interested in learning more, here is a link to a webinar series from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems on gendered data collection:
Graduate Research Associate
CFAES Department of Food Science and Technology