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Environmental Influence

Power in agriculture: Is gender identity the key?

Let’s talk about sex. Or, more fully, sexual orientation and gender expression.

The upcoming Seeds of Change Conference taking place at the University of Canberra will be host to some of the most influential gender scholars, advocates and experts.

They will examine how women in the agricultural sector can help eradicate poverty around the world; what drives the transformation of health and nutrition outcomes; and how to bridge the gender gap in agricultural productivity.

UC’s PhD candidate, Jane Alver, shared her insights on gender diversity, expression and sexual orientation with the UnCover team ahead of the conference.

“Current approaches in agricultural research use ‘gender’ as shorthand for a limited binary of men and women,” said Jane.

“The key question for me is what about the broader, non-binary spectrum of gender identity and sexual expression?”

Jane advocates that a non-binary approach to gender empowerment in agriculture can provide greater insight into power dynamics in agriculture.

“Any work on gender and agriculture should be concerned with inclusion of gender identity and sexual orientation.”

“For so many years, people have called upon the UN to protect the rights of women in all of their diversity, including sexual expression and gender identity,” Jane said.

In 2015, Jane attended the UN Commission for the Status of Women in New York and visited UN Missions to advocate for diversity to be reflected. The greatest disappointment for Jane and her gender advocacy peers was the realisation that the Political Declaration was negotiated prior to the opening of the session and merely approved on the first day, with no opposition from the floor.

It was no surprise to learn that Jane followed the proceedings of the latest United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting that concluded on 22 March and maintains that there is still insufficient support for gender identity and inclusion.

“Conservative nations continue to exercise their veto power to exclude a broader notion of family, such as a family with two women or two men or non-binary folk and fail to include language protecting a variety of expressions of sexual orientation and gender identity in the final outcome statements.

“This is in stark conflict with the position that we ‘leave no one behind’ as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals encourage,” she said.

Jane believes that the solution is to be mindful when we talk of ‘gender’, to not replicate binary constructs, to be open to development programs and policies without assumptions, and research partners should be gender diverse and inclusive.

“I urge delegates attending the Seeds of Change conference to support those speaking up and to call out those replicating binaries because we need to remain open to and inclusive of gender and sexual diversity to remain relevant,” Jane said.

“In this way we will be sowing seeds to initiate change, instigate debate and ensure inclusivity.”

Event: Seeds of Change Conference 

Topic: Gender Equality Through Agricultural Research for Development

Date: 2 – 4 April 2019

Venue: Ann Harding Centre, Building 24, University of Canberra

The Seeds of Change Conference is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research; and the University of Canberra.

About Jane

Jane is a PhD candidate at the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the University of Canberra. A lawyer and gender equality advocate, she was named in the AFR 100 Women of Influence in 2018.

Jane is also a member of the Steering Committee of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, a platform she relishes being a part of.

Words by Andy Visser

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