GRET’s internal seminar, which takes place every year in late August-early September in Nogent-sur-Marne, in France, is an event that allows staff and members of the NGO to get together, have discussions and share experiences. The 2018 edition provided an opportunity to present reflections underway on the subject of gender to all participants. The primary objective of these discussions was to agree together on a common base for the definition of gender equality at GRET.
In January 2018, GRET set up a committee focusing on gender equality, thanks to the Gender Institutional and organisational support fund, which is managed by the Coordination Sud (in French) collective and funded by Agence française de développement (AFD). This committee brings together approximately twenty GRET staff, all driven by a determination to further promote gender equality within the NGO’s governance and in the implementation of its projects. Cécile Broutin, agriculture and agrifood value chains programme manager and a member of the committee tells us: “A work group had already been set up at GRET two years ago. It was replaced by this long-term, transversal gender committee, which has members both in headquarters and in the field.”
Productive collective discussions
These collective discussions took place following the diagnostic phase. The first day was devoted to possible methods for including gender equality in projects at GRET. The presentation of a vademecum and a toolkit enabled the one hundred or so participants from all countries to continue reflections in workshops, with a view to formulating concrete recommendations. One area for improvement that was expressed almost unanimously was the necessity to train staff in GRET’s countries of operation and at headquarters on gender issues.
The objective of the last half-day devoted to this subject was to have a group discussion on the definition of a common gender base at GRET. To generate dialogue, the théâtre de l’Opprimé theatre company, specialised in drama forums for companies, facilitated short scenes aiming to highlight discussions and encourage participants to express themselves openly.
“This enabled us to better understand the direction in which GRET is moving. Our colleagues back in Cambodia will ask us about what was said and what the gender project will mean for us and for the projects we lead. We have already held discussions on gender with our colleagues and our position is quite neutral, it is important to understand that some things are acceptable in France and some things are not accepted in Cambodia, and vice-versa”, explain Pheaktra Thlang and Thy Hy, GRET staff in Cambodia.
Madagascar and Senegal: two pilot countries
As part of this programme, two pilot countries were chosen to make a diagnosis in line with real needs at GRET: Senegal and Madagascar. For Marie-Christine Goudiaby, agrifood expert in Senegal and a member of the committee, “the fact that Senegal is a pilot country enables staff to follow this project very closely, but also to participate in debates and make suggestions. As realities are different, it is important that the issue of gender is also driven by developing countries, which can share their vision and feel involved. With my colleagues on the gender committee, we ensure that Senegalese staff at GRET follow the project and that Senegal’s voice is heard.”
GRET’s representative in Madagascar, Luc Arnaud, has already observed some changes: “The committee’s work is generating strong interest in the various teams, we have had large, animated meetings. Incidentally, during the last team meal, the men were asked to ʺgive a handʺ serving meals and so everyone participated, which had never happened up to now.”