Language:  English  Français  Español 
Log in or Join us

Lost your login?

Join the community

Are you a consultant?
Find out how you can benefit from consultant membership

Pathways to Empowerment: Empowering Women in Equitable Agriculture Systems at Scale


Multi-national, Sub-Saharan Africa  Show on interactive map

Active from:

Jul 2014

Implementing organisation(s):

CARE USA and CARE Mali, Malawi, Tanzania, Ghana, and India


Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Pathways to Empowerment


CARE’s Pathways Program is based on the conviction that women farmers possess enormous potential to contribute to long-term food security for their families and substantially impact nutritional outcomes in sustainable ways. The program builds on CARE’s expertise in smallholder agriculture, financial inclusion, nutrition, women’s empowerment and market engagement. Pathways promotes transformative change in smallholder women’s live and the lives of their families.

Objectives of the intervention:

The Pathways goal is to increase the productivity and empowerment of women farmers in more equitable agriculture systems at scale. Specific objectives include increasing the productivity and empowerment of 50,000 resource poor smallholder women farmers in sustainable and equitable agricultural systems; enhancing the scale of high-quality women-responsive agricultural programming within and beyond CARE; and influencing debates and policy dialogue on women and agriculture at local, national and global levels.

The program design is guided by a unified Theory of Change (ToC)  based in-depth analysis of common barriers facing women smallholder farmers. The ToC identifies five key “change levers” to address these underlying barriers: 1) building Capacities 2) improving Access to resources, information and services; 3) increasing women’s Productivity; 4) strengthening women’s Intra-household influence; and 5) creating an Enabling Environment through work with community leaders and structures.

The Farmer Field and Business School (FFBS) approach is the main intervention innovation of the program. Building off of the traditional farmer field school approach, it explicitly integrates gender dialogues, couples’ communications exercises, and collective advocacy for women’s land and resource rights around the agricultural seasonal calendar. These gender activities are intended to support women and men to challenge restrictive social norms and foster women’s intra-household and community-level influence, which furthers a virtuous empowerment cycle of enabling greater control over their productive and economic enterprises, which in turn fosters greater economic empowerment, self-confidence and respect from family and community.

Why was OM chosen?

To measure impact in women’s empowerment, the Pathways Program used a variation of the quantitative Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), which captured change in 5 key domains of change (such as control over production, income, assets, time-use). However, this index sets a very rigid and high threshold for “empowerment” and is insensitive to the intermediate changes and relational aspects of intra-household dynamics that are important to monitor – both to encourage progress and monitor for harmful changes.
Pathways’ decision to use Outcome Mapping responded to a felt need from staff for ways to systematically understand and document changes that were happening at the household level. For instance, while “women’s decision-making power” was a recognized domain of change, it was clear from baseline qualitative data that women might overreport their actual degree of in “joint decisions,” for the sake of perceived harmony or understating negative consequences in the case of disagreement. Similarly, while staff observed some overt changes in men’s behaviors (ie, men were supporting with some household tasks), it was not clear the extent to which these were happening – or how significant these changes were, from a ‘gender-transformative’ perspective.
Pathways applied Outcome Mapping to the monitor gender progress, because it offered a pragmatic and visual way to identify and observe meaningful behavior changes that show progress toward more equitable intra-household relationships. Just as we used a set of “progress markers” to monitor uptake of specific recommended agricultural practices (such as timely planting or use of improved seed), Pathways used OM to define a set of progress markers – for men and women- that show what behaviors show movement toward more equal intra-household relations.
The key objective of this process was to set an aspirational, practical vision of what gender equality looks like in each cultural context, while offering staff and community members an agreed-upon measuring tool to observe and applaud incremental changes toward that vision.

How was OM used?

Outcome Mapping was used for monitoring gender behavior changes (of men and women) to assess incremental change toward the impact areas of women’s empowerment. Specifically, the steps followed were as follows

• Defined 5 common categories of behavior change for men and women, using Outcome Challenge language to identify the aspirational ideal in each domain of change (ie, workload-sharing, sharing control over decisions, intimacy and respect in the relationship, etc.)
• Using qualitative data from 5 countries’ mid-term reviews, we identified 3-4 common behavior changes (in each country) that showed progress toward the Outcome Challenge for each domain of change. These were structured into “expect-like-love-to-see” hierarchy of change.
• Taking the progress markers out of their domains of change, we created one graduated progress marker map – (separately for men and for women), which ordered the Progress Markers from easiest “expect-to-see” (ie, men fetching firewood) to most challenging “love-to-see” (ie, men taking care of children while the wife is in the home).
• This provided us with a graduated map of progressive behavior changes for men and women that were validated and agreed upon with the community members and that included context-specific, observable, and meaningful indicators of behavior change (such as “women dressing smartly and looking nice” or “men walking together with their spouses in public”)
Using these Progress Marker maps, we created a qualitative monitoring guideline for staff to facilitate six-monthly focus group discussions in the communities, allowing them to reflect on and assess community progress toward the Outcome Challenges

What was the experience of using OM?

• Developing progress marker maps created a pragmatic tool that enabled staff as well as communities to engage more meaningfully in the process of encouraging gender behavior change.
• While analyzing the quantitative data is somewhat challenging, the qualitative discussion process is highly valued by both staff and communities; this monitoring exercise is visibly changing the dynamics of discussions between men and women by creating an additional structured space for dialogue around sensitive but important subjects (including use of violence, extra-marital affairs, and men relinquishing financial responsibilities as women’s incomes increased). The self-confidence of women – and men- to speak up frankly and comfortably is another unanticipated outcome of the process
• The process of developing progress markers identified subjectively important domains of change (ie, intimacy and respect in the relationship) that are otherwise left out of impact measures of women’s economic empowerment
• The focus- group discussions enabled women to reflect critically about what “empowerment” means—and to feel pride in changes that they had been making. Discussions around decision-making helped them to realize the extent to which they are excluded from key household and community level decisions—and motivated them to take action to address the gaps that they identified.
• Monitoring progress markers with men allowed teams to applaud early “expect-to-see” changes while still pursuing more substantive and meaningful transformations of power dynamics within the household.
• Regular gender progress marker monitoring gave teams evidence that gender social-norm change is possible, which motivated field staff to celebrate their achievements and recognize the importance of the gender activities to the overall agriculture intervention
• The Gender Progress Marker tool was modified and taken up by staff teams as a self-evaluation tool, encouraging staff to role-model in their own households the gender behavior changes that they are promoting in ‘the field.’ This application has generated greater awareness and empathy for the difficulties of social norm change, allowing them to offer more meaningful support and encouragement during gender dialogues and activities.

Linked Resources



Latin America & Carribean Sub-Saharan Africa North Africa & Middle East South Asia South East Asia & Pacific Far-East Asia Eastern Europe & CIS (ex USSR) Western Europe North America & Canada Australasia