Why marginalise women? – Part One

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IN Africa, women, in general, have been marginalised in extension services as well as agricultural training and education. 

Men dominated the agricultural disciplines in secondary schools. Men generally constituted the majority of the personnel in extension departments and were the primary recipients of extension services. 

Although women’s enrolment in agricultural programmes, especially at the intermediate and university levels, has grown since the mid-1980s, it remained low in comparison to men’s enrolment, especially in Benin, Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. There are also mixed results in terms of women’s enrolment in agricultural subjects in secondary schools.  

In Benin, the participation of women in agriculture courses at secondary level increased slightly from four percent in 1986 to eight in 1991. 

In the Congo, women’s enrolment in agricultural technical secondary schools increased between 1984 and 1989 from 34 to 53 percent of total enrolment.  

In Namibia, more males continued to take agricultural subjects at secondary level, which had implications for subsequent entrance into agricultural colleges. It was thought that while there was gender tracking based on gender stereotypes, the smaller number of female students may also be due to lack of women agricultural teachers who might serve as mentors to girls.

Results have also been mixed in terms of women’s enrolment at the intermediate levels of agricultural education.  

In Benin, women’s enrolment at superior school level increased slightly from 3,8 to 4,6 percent in 1991. 

In the Congo, women’s enrolment in agricultural training centres (CMA) increased from 46 percent, in 1984, to 51 percent, in 1989. However, in Namibia, men still outnumbered women in agricultural colleges, with women representing 45 percent of first year enrolment at the Ongongo Agricultural College and 12 percent at the Neuclamrn Agricultural College.  

In Tanzania, female enrolment in agricultural certificate and diploma programmes remained low, with only 34 women compared to 85 men in certificate level programmes in agriculture and livestock. In diploma training in agriculture, out of a total of 161 students, only 29 were women.   

In livestock diploma training, male intake increased from 108 in 1992 to 122 in 1993, while female intake decreased from 18 to 10 during the same period.

Women’s enrolment also increased in agricultural disciplines at university level.  

In Tanzania, the percentage of women enrolled in the BSC programme in agriculture in the Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine increased from 15,1 percent, in 1988, to 28,8 percent, in 1994, while in the forestry programme, female intake increased from one student in 1988 to four in 1994. 

In Zimbabwe, agricultural training was not readily available to women in the early 1980s as the majority of agricultural training institutes had no facilities for training women. 

By 1990, 42 women qualified, and by 1992, all agricultural colleges could enrol female students. 

In 1993, the female output was 30 percent per annum for colleges and 26 percent for university graduates. The increase in women’s enrolment in agricultural programmes between the mid and late-1980s was the most impressive in the Congo, where they accounted for more than half of the students in agricultural programmes

In the 1980s, an increase in women’s enrolment in agricultural colleges and university programmes was also notable in Zimbabwe, where, in 10 years, women’s enrolment increased from relatively fewer female students to 30 percent for colleges and 26 percent for universities in 1993.

According to a 1989 global survey by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on extension and farm women, women accounted for 10,5 percent of extension staff in Africa.  Dr Michelina Andreucci is a Zimbabwean-Italian researcher, industrial design consultant, lecturer and specialist hospitality interior decorator. She is a published author in her field. For views and comments, email: linamanucci@gmail.com

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