A strong point of the IITA 2012–2020 Refreshed Strategy is its emphasis on promoting gender equality across the institute, specifically stating that “gender equity is to be ensured in all areas of operation”. This means that a gender perspective is to be integrated into every aspect of the formulation, development, and implementation of IITA policies, initiatives, projects, and activities. This also means that IITA will think of, plan for, and take actions that equally and equitably promote the interests of men and women in everything that we do as an institute.
To guide specific interventions and activities towards effective gender mainstreaming, IITA’s Human Resources Office (HR) conducted an internal assessment survey in October 2014 to assess staff’s perception of gender mainstreaming and the general level of gender awareness and understanding. The survey results showed that only 34% of respondents were aware of the concept of gender. In 2015, IITA took steps to increase staff’s level of awareness about gender and to enhance capacity for mainstreaming gender in the workplace, with the overall goal of changing mindsets, attitudes, and behaviors, and enhance consciousness in gender-related issues in the workplace and in research.
To help achieve this goal, HR engaged the services of a consultant, Prof Jane Bennett, of the African Gender Institute, University of Cape Town in South Africa, to drive the gender awareness program. Prof Bennett facilitated a gender awareness seminar at the IITA-Ibadan campus on 1 September 2015, which was attended by more than 400 staff from HQ and the Western Africa Hub, as well as the regional administrators. The seminar was also streamed online for staff located in stations outside of Ibadan to participate. The seminar covered key concepts on gender, gender dynamics, gender inequality, and gender mainstreaming.
The awareness-raising seminar was followed by a two-day training on 2-3 September 2015 to build staff capacity in gender mainstreaming. Participants included a mix of managers and staff from R4D, Partnerships and Capacity Development, Corporate Services, and Finance Directorates. The workshop focused on the application of gender analysis to specific work activities/projects and the exploration of gender mainstreaming tools likely to generate deeper levels of gender-aware and gender-sensitive knowledge. It was also intended to deepen gender-sensitivity within all areas of participants’ working environments. After successfully completing the training, participants were designated as Gender Focal Points for their respective units and hubs.
Additionally, a one-day introductory training for Dignity Advisors was also conducted by Prof Bennett. Dignity advisors are selected staff that would support the implementation of the policy on harassment and discrimination, which was also launched in 2015. The initial training was attended by 20 participants who had been preselected and had indicated their willingness to serve as Dignity Advisors. Related to this initiative, HR organized an awareness-raising seminar in May about staff’s rights to dignity in the workplace, how to contribute towards a harassment- and discrimination free workplace, and what to do and where to get help if any staff becomes a victim. HR plans to hold a more in-depth training on skills needed to handle cases of harassment, especially sexual harassment, in 2016 for the Dignity Advisors.
To help ensure that gender is mainstreamed into research at IITA, the R4D Directorate organized a special presentation by Prof Bennett during R4D Week on gender awareness and dynamics in the workplace, with the aim of integrating gender research into research planning, priority setting, and targeting. The special seminar was attended by some 200 scientists and research associates.
Other initiatives taken by HR to enhance gender equality in the workplace during the year included sustaining the practice of equal pay for equivalent work and enhancing female representation in the workforce, with the latter resulting in a substantial increase in staff female representation from 1% in 2014 to about 26%, in 2015. HR, with the Capacity Development Office, also co-hosted an African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Leadership and Management Course in which 14 senior female staff participated. The goal of the course was to develop women leadership as a means to promote gender equality.
HR also continued to use staff town hall meetings as avenues to encourage gendersensitive communication and promote the use of gender-neutral language in influencing organizational culture in a gender-sensitive direction.
The Women Empowerment Platform (WEP), established in March 2014 as an initiative of the Director General, marked the 2015 International Women’s month by organizing a seminar on “Celebrating Women in Science and Entrepreneurship” on 25 March. Dr Ylva Hillbur, IITA Deputy Director General for R4D, along with two notable women entrepreneurs, shared their life experiences of “making it to the top”, with the aim of influencing and inspiring other women to do so as well.