Gender Roles in Emergency Livestock Activities

The potential impact of any intervention on women’s access to and management of resources − in particular, livestock and livestock products − needs close attention.

A pre-intervention assessment of gender roles and responsibilities is needed within the affected community to analyse the extent and impact of the emergency and the implications of the planned activities. In some pastoralist communities, for example, women may be responsible for young but not adult stock, or they may have control of livestock products (e.g. milk, butter and skins) as part of their overall control of the food supply, while men have disposal rights over the animal itself.

In this context, the following aspects should be considered at the project design stage:

  • Roles and decision-making capacities: Supporting women as livestock owners, animal health care providers, feed gatherers and birth attendants, and as users of livestock products is crucial for gender-responsive interventions.

  • Gender responsibilities: In many livestock-based societies, cash is controlled by men while food is the responsibility of women. In such cases, meat distribution may help to support women’s role in securing the family food supply, while cash purchase of livestock may increase male heads of household’s spending power, over which women may have little control.

  • Women’s safety: Consideration of gender roles in the provision of water and feed for livestock, particularly in the case of poorer women and girls who may risk, for example, violent assault if they have to travel distances to collect water for livestock.

  • Women and animal health: Women (and girls) are often responsible for small and/or young stock, including the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. They should, therefore, be involved in animal health interventions and training.

  • Social and cultural norms: The design of veterinary services needs to take account of local social and cultural norms, particularly those related to the roles of men and women as service providers (e.g. in some communities it is difficult for women to move around freely or travel alone to remote areas where livestock might be kept).

  • Women’s workload: Milking of dairy animals and cleaning of animal housing are often tasks that fall disproportionately upon women members of the household. In addition, feed collection and management may mean particularly onerous duties for women and girls. Hence, particular care should be taken to ensure that the planned activities do not compromise the interests of women in affected communities.

Source: IFAD (2009): Emergency livestock interventions in crisis and post-crisis situations