GRASP Fellowship Empowers Women in Agriculture

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is empowering women by training and bringing the Fellows in the second Cohort of its Gender Responsive Agriculture Systems Policy (GRASP) Fellowship.

Based on a report published by FAO this year, The Status of Women in Agrifood Systems revealed that while there has been some progress, substantial gender inequalities in agrifood systems persist.

The report highlights the need to intensify efforts toward policy reforms to ensure that agricultural policies specifically address gender equality and women’s empowerment. The GRASP Fellowship is renowned for its focus on fostering gender-responsive policies to close the gender gaps in agri-food systems.

According to Dr. Susan Kaaria, Director, AWARD, GRASP Fellowship offers unparalleled opportunities to women in Africa and is cultivating a growing pool of women to be technically competent to lead policy processes and decisions that will take into account the unique experiences of women and men smallholders.

“One of our goals at AWARD is to support women to not only become effective leaders of agricultural research for development agendas but also to promote an enabling environment for equitable agri-food systems,” says, Dr. Susan Kaaria, Director, of AWARD.

GRASP is a two-year career development program that aims to grow a pool of confident and capable mid-career African women to lead policy changes to improve African smallholders’ livelihoods, particularly women.

Originating from six Anglophone and Francophone African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, and Senegal), the 50 Fellows hold positions in various institutions – from government and education to NGOs and the private sector – with most working in social sciences.

The selected applicants all have at least 10 years of experience in the policy field in agriculture and food systems at national, regional, or continental levels. With a significant number (18) working within governmental roles, these women are well-positioned to contribute to enhanced, evidence-based policymaking – a key ambition of the program.

This year’s selection sees some Fellows from the same institutions as those from Cohort One, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Labour Organization. This is hailed as a positive step towards building teams that can champion policy change within organizations or in particular policy areas.

With a significant number of Fellows coming from Ethiopia and Madagascar – 11 and 13 respectively – the aim is to generate a pool of expertise amongst women who can support one another in influencing and fostering policy change.

The 50 women selected for the GRASP Fellowship will receive customized training in mentoring, advanced leadership skills, negotiation skills, gender in agricultural policy, and masterclasses on policy processes. Beneficiaries will also receive catalytic funding and access to networks to enable them to lead policy processes that integrate gender for agricultural transformation in Africa.

Each Fellow has been matched with a senior policy professional who will serve as a mentor, and the Fellows will also each select a junior policy professional to mentor later in the Fellowship period.

The trio will be supported to participate in structured mentoring programs to foster knowledge sharing and development of Policy Innovation Projects that will provide hands-on practical experience in collaborating toward gender-responsive policy development.

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