A joint face-to-face is well worth the effort

July 16, 2014 | Blog-Admin1 | SDC Experiences, SDC Networks |


Rating: 4.0 out of 5

 Portrait FMFThe Gender Equality Network as well as the Agriculture and Food Security Network decided to organize their face-to-face (f2f) events in the same week June 2nd to 6th and to have a joint program during three of the five f2f days. The joint days were especially important to demonstrate with practical examples how gender equity in a natural way is always part of any social reality. Felix Fellmann, SDC Agriculture & Food Security Focalpoint


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On day two of the event three Swiss farmer couples explained in an authentic way how they handle their gender roles: The younger couple aged around 25 wants to keep many options open such as having children, working full or part time on the farm or looking for work elsewhere. The couples with many years of life experience revisit their relationship regularly in order to negotiate a good solution for the entire family. They understand that a good solution for husband and wife means to give and take and to put the common interest in the center.


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Panel with 3 farming couples

Pertinence of a joint F2F

Agriculture and Food Security is a key topic at the global level. In Switzerland, however, barely 3% of workforce is active in the agricultural sector. Many participants were surprised about the highly productive production system combined with environmental stewardship principles. An eye opener for many was also the strong regulatory and economic intervention of the Government in agriculture. Several members from the Gender Equality Network coming from partner countries of Africa, Asia, Middle East and Latin America appreciated the exposure to a more “technical” topic such as Agriculture and Food Security.

Insights from fieldtrips in Swiss farms


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Participants enjoying the hospitality of a family farm with an Alp in 1400 meters


Common to all the statements of the farming couples visited are that there is no “blueprint” of an ideal situation and gender roles are permanently re-negotiated. Farming families visited on the third day confirmed again that gender roles need to be adjusted regularly depending on the family situation as well as on economic opportunities and possibilities. These “real life” experiences where characterized by mutual understanding and good communication between husband and wife. On most Swiss farms couples do work together and share family responsibilities. Participants were able to modify their strong “economic focus” in development and were surprised that the motivation of farming are foremost based on their strong interest in the profession, the social responsibilities of multi – generation families and taking care of the environment and nurturing  traditions.

Lessons learnt


  •  Many of the 120 participants have learned that gender equality issues are central  of any project they are dealing with.  The challenge is to be open and contextual empathetic and not to be tempted to generalize or to take the gender equality debate of Switzerland or Europe as the benchmark.


  •  Many participants have been able to sharpen their skill to look at gender roles in a differentiated and contextual specific manner, to be nonjudgmental. They have learned not to search “automatically” for victims but to focus primarily on a solid understanding of how men and women cope with different interests and aspirations.


  •  Thanks to the joint face-to-face two perspectives of two thematic communities shed light on different aspects of real life situations. This produced a lively exchange during the face-to-face. With such great benefits of a joint f2f, we recommend that thematic and sectorial networks such as water, education health or income and employment join in with gender in order to sharpen the view and demonstrate the power of taking into account all members of society.

What do you think dear reader?


Further reading



Comments to“A joint face-to-face is well worth the effort”

  1. Riff Fullan says:

    Thanks Felix, for your insights on the joint f2f of the gender and AFS networks…..your last point, on cross-fertilization between networks resonates particularly well with me at the moment: here at Helvetas, we recently had a mini-workshop on innovation and one thing that came up several times was the potential benefit of bringing in ‘outside’ or non-traditional perspectives in our work. It is difficult to think outside the box when we are working in the same box all the time! Sometimes having a fresh perspective of someone who does not normally work in the same field can really open your eyes to new possibilities…..

  2. Thank you, Felix, for these refreshing sentences. And congratulations for having organized the joint f2f! I agree with Riff, that it needs to step outside your own garden in order to get new insights and new ideas and motivation. It would be extremely interesting to know, if you will – after some time – observe new initiatives or approaches in the A+FS network, that could be traced back to this exchange with the Gender Network.


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