Jiselle Steele of the Oxfam Business Advisory Service introduces the “Gender Transformative Tracker”, piloted by Oxfam and stakeholders in the seafood industry in south-east Asia – and draws out four key insights from the pilot for boosting gender equality. Read her blog below and join the OBAS webinar on 18th July to find out more.
Women working in south-east Asia’s seafood industry too often see their labour undervalued compared to men, whether that’s in processing or in trading. To help redress the balance, the Oxfam Business Advisory Service has developed a practical diagnostic tool for stakeholders in the shrimp value chain to help them promote gender equality.
The tracker builds on Oxfam’s work in south-east Asia as part of the programme, GRAISEA (Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia), which promotes women’s economic empowerment in agricultural value chains.
What is the Gender Transformative Tracker?
The Gender Transformative Tracker helps companies assess and improve plans to promote gender equality. It sets out how to start on the journey to tackle gender inequality: by completing a short self-assessment, companies get a better understanding of how to improve their practices and identify gaps and opportunities to go further with their teams and workers. Companies can also use the tracker to explore what training or support is needed to increase awareness of gender issues, and can draw on resources and examples to develop an action plan.
Developing and using the tracker
Oxfam Business Advisory Service had originally designed a similar tool for the coffee sector to respond to gender issues in the value chain. In early 2023, we adapted this for the shrimp value chain and tested it with private sector actors. These were Khang An Foods, a Vietnamese shrimp processing plant; Amanda Seafood, a large seafood supplier in Vietnam; Hilton Foods, an international food and supply chain services business; and Tesco, a large UK supermarket.
The pilot focused on using the tracker in factories and shrimp processing though we also looked at how it could be applied by producers, farmer organisations, international buyers and large distributors.
With support from Gender Family and Community Development (GFCD), a Vietnamese NGO that works to achieve fairness and equality for women, Khang An used the Gender Transformative Tracker to complete a self-assessment and develop an action plan based on the recommendations to build on their activities to promote gender equality and support women and men in their workforce.
Four ways to promote gender equality in shrimp supply chains
The pilot of the Gender Transformative Tracker highlighted four areas that are key for suppliers and international buyers in this supply chain to promote gender equality.
- Make a commitment to promote gender equality, with an action plan to respond to challenges facing women and men in the workplace
Having a gender strategy, policy and action plan is vital. A gender equality policy can build on existing company policies around equal opportunities whilst demonstrating a clear ongoing commitment to dedicating time and resources to understand and address the specific barriers and issues affecting women and men in the workplace, including gender-based violence. Tackling gender inequality requires support and commitment by leadership and at management level, and having a gender plan helps to show this commitment.
- Speak to workers to understand gender-specific needs and barriers
Workplace issues affect women, men and non-binary people in different ways. Other aspects of identity such as race, ethnicity, disability and migrant status also overlap with gender to impact people. Dedicating time to learn more about how workers may be affected differently by workplace policies and processes can help to tackle the root causes of gender inequality issues. To get a better understanding of these intersectional issues, companies should speak to workers directly. This could be through regular meetings between workers and management where workers feed back directly; forming a gender worker committee; or providing neutral spaces where women and men can meet together or separately with union or worker representatives to discuss gender-sensitive issues. Having a grievance mechanism in place where workers have access to various ways to report issues to management is also a critical source of information about workers’ experiences.
- Collaborate with others to build knowledge and capacity internally and externally
Working in partnership with unions and other civil society organisations, such as women’s rights organisations, can help to bring in the expertise and technical support to learn more about and respond to gender issues. It can also provide an objective perspective on your policies and practices, as well as providing workers with another route to raise issues that they may not feel able to raise with management directly.
- Build awareness and capacity at all levels – for workers and management
Awareness raising helps to build a culture where discussing and responding to gender issues is a priority. One way to do this is to establish a gender focal point or working group that can monitor the impact of training, identify areas where further training is needed, and explore how training can complement other activities to raise awareness. This focal point or working group can also work with other parts of the business to build a common understanding on why promoting gender equality is important and follow up on planned actions.
Why use the Gender Transformative Tracker?
The Gender Transformative Tracker helps stakeholders, including buyers, suppliers and producers to take action to understand and respond to gender equality issues, and provides guidance and recommendation on the types of activities that can increase awareness of gender issues and tackle gender inequality. This version of the tracker focuses on the shrimp value chain but many of the processes and insights could be relevant to those in other value chains.
Oxfam Business Advisory Service helps companies to visibly lead as global citizens, deploying positive business practices to make their supply chains stronger and more sustainable, working together to fight the global inequalities that push people into poverty. For more info on how OBAS can help improve your gender balance at different levels in your business and supply chain, contact Jiselle at firstname.lastname@example.org.