A family that works together can overcome poverty

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A family that works together can overcome poverty


A family in Uganda. ©IFAD/Clare Bishop

14 MAY 2015 –  This year, 15 May, marks the 21st anniversary of International Day of Families. While many people will be celebrating the occasion by connecting with their relatives across the globe, IFAD is hosting a special event based on an innovative technique known asHousehold Methodologies (HHMs) that it has pioneered together with partners. HHMs enable families to transform the way they think, interact and operate. As a result, resources, benefits and workloads are shared more equitably and the overall well-being of the household and its members is strengthened.

Addressing the root causes of low productivity

As the Lead Technical Specialist of the IFAD Gender Team, Clare Bishop-Sambrook explained "IFAD has been developing HHMs for several years as an effective mechanism for promoting gender equality and social inclusion. HHMs enable household members to identify and address the underlying causes of low productivity, which are often routed in gender inequalities and support positive behaviour change at the household level."

IFAD believes that investing in rural people in developing countries is the most effective way of tackling poverty. HHMs are a useful tool in this respect. Given that they work at the household level, where each member has a stake in working together to improve livelihoods, HHMs promote the economic and social empowerment of the entire family.

HHMs are based on the understanding that very often, women and men in the same household do not equally share the burden of responsibilities for what is produced and consumed. Typically, women tend to bear the greater burden of domestic chores and care-giving, and engage in productive work, but rarely have an equal share of the benefits, nor much of a voice in decision-making.

Promoting household well-being

Empowerment of the household comes about through recognizing that these gender inequalities hinder household growth and well-being. It is not about empowering women to the disadvantage of men, however. Rather, both women and men see that they benefit economically and personally from a more equal relationship with each other and with their children. Hence, in practice, more equitable gender relations translate into greater economic gains not just for women but for the entire household. When each family member works together for the benefit of the entire household by engaging with and listening to each other, smallholder farmer families and their livelihoods are strengthened.

Women working in the field in Nepal. 
©IFAD/Rockey Prajapati

Evidence shows that there are a number of advantages to using HHMs. Incomes and productivity grow. Participants also report greater sustainability and resilience in their livelihoods, better food security and a happier family life. Furthermore, cultural norms that have existed for generations can be transformed, as a result of the benefits of collaboration. This includes a boost in women's decision-making powers and a decline in gender-based violence. Also, men's more equitable share of domestic and caring tasks frees up women's time that is usually spent on these activities. This allows women to be more involved in economically productive work, such as working on the land, while men gain from more positive relationships with their children, for example.

People-focused tools for coherent livelihood strategies

It is this focus on people – on who they want to be and what they want to do – rather than on things, such as assets and infrastructure, that represents the true innovation behind HHMs. Often livelihood strategies are influenced by gender and inter-generational inequalities, and so strategies within the same household have often tended to be disparate and fragmented. By contrast, HHMs promote the idea of families working as a team with a common vision of what they want to achieve, so individual members are more motivated to pursue a single coherent household livelihood strategy that benefits the whole family.

In certain cases, women and men in a household may wish to pursue different visions, particularly if spouses run their own businesses. In using HHMs, this difference in vision is recognized and fully supported as contributing to overall household and individual well-being and livelihood improvement. The same is true in polygamous households where each unit prepares its own vision and action plan, and the rights of co-wives are recognized.

Participants in household mentoring in Uganda. ©IFAD/Sarah Morgan

Participants at the IFAD special event will learn more about household visioning and how IFAD is implementing HHMs in different contexts. The workshop aims to bring to life these and the many other benefits of using the methodologies through hands-on learning exercises, pictures and inspiring stories. In this way, IFAD's HHMs are contributing significantly to development objectives and ensuring that, by working together to overcome gender inequalities, poor rural families can empower themselves to escape poverty.