In Rwanda, Land O’Lakes Venture37 (Venture37) is working with agricultural cooperatives to address gender barriers and power dynamics that negatively affect women’s participation in cooperatives, both as members and leaders, and within their households. To empower both men and women through USAID’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP), Venture37 hosted a Trading Places exercise as a transformative approach to training by encouraging husbands to experience firsthand the heavy domestic workload of their wives. For two days, 12 participants from three cooperatives swapped roles and recorded their progress using an Accountability Tracking Tool.
After participating in the exercise, couples were briefed and then asked, as a group, to conduct a baseline assessment of each household. They compared their tracking tools against the baseline and spoke to their individual experiences while trading places. Men shared a deeper recognition of their wives’ daily routine, while women had the time to rest and enjoy more free time during the day. Husbands also spent more time with their children and provided a positive influence on sharing responsibilities within the home.
One male participant, who is a member of a maize cooperative in Rwamagana District, shared: “I realized that women have a lot of work, usually when we come back from farming, men go to rest while the women keep being busy. Women are really heroes! I have really found that we don’t value their work enough.”
“Not only should we keep doing this work, but we shouldn’t even hide it. We should do all this in the open, and spark the curiosity of others, and tell them to try it, and just wait and see the benefits. Because we know how good it is for the home, and we know it’s the right thing to do,” said another male participant, who is a member of a maize cooperative in Bugesera District.
Venture37 plans to continue gender mainstreaming activities with local cooperatives to normalize such behaviors, break down gender barriers, reinvent gender norms, and create more egalitarian environments at home and within cooperatives.
This article was written for and published in USAID’s Locally Led Development Initiatives Newsletter- March 2022, under the Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation; Local, Faith, and Transformative Partnerships Hub. Photo credit: Land O’lakes Venture37. One of the couples that took part in the trading places exercise.