Women and Gender in International Development program at Virginia Tech

Program Director Maria Elise Christie working along side local women.

Our mission is to work towards gender equality in development by promoting gender sensitivity in every OIRED project and ensuring that women benefit. We believe that development is achieved most effectively when it is inclusive, equitable, and based on the priorities of local groups. As a learning community and academic resource, we seek to build capacity to address gender disparities in the areas of agriculture, natural resource management, education, food security, health and nutrition, and water. The WGD program works collaboratively with VT faculty and students, partner organizations around the world, and other stakeholders, conducting interdisciplinary research on gender issues to increase opportunities for women while achieving the technical goals of our projects.

What is Gender?

Gender is a social construct that refers to relations between and among the sexes, based on their relative roles. It encompasses the economic, political, and socio-cultural attributes, constraints, and opportunities associated with being male or female. As a social construct, gender varies across cultures, is dynamic and open to change over time. Because of the variation in gender across cultures and over time, gender roles should not be assumed but investigated. Note that "gender" is not interchangeable with "women" or "sex."

WGD Discussion Series, Fall 2014

Agriculture and pest management in Bangladesh: Gendered perspectives from the house-lot garden

Maria Elisa Christie
WGD Program Director, OIRED

Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Office of International Research, Education, and Development (OIRED)
526 Prices Fork Road
Conference Room A, 12:00 to 1:00 pm

From a feminist political ecology perspective on the importance of everyday life and gendered space, this presentation considers the participation of women and men farmers in an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program in several rural districts in Bangladesh. The program is implemented through collaboration between US universities, and a Bangladeshi research institute and NGO. Together, they work to disseminate Trichoderma to farmers to combat soil-borne diseases and teach farmers how to produce Tricho-compost and Tricho-leachate to apply to their vegetable crops. Both are produced in the house-lot garden, where women spend much of their time due in part to cultural restrictions on their mobility. We look at two different approaches, one targeting men and one targeting women. In the first, men are targeted in an IPM program due to their primary role using pesticides in vegetable production. The second targets women in a livelihood approach that aims to increase their incomes through various components including raising animals and making Tricho-compost, all in the house-lot garden. We consider gender roles and farmer's perspectives on the production of Trichoderma in these different approaches through interviews of both men and women at over 40 households. Our research aims to increase gender equity and the effectiveness and sustainability of the Integrated Pest Management program.

The WGD program has sponsored a discussion series for the past several years, giving students and professionals an opportunity to share their research and discuss issues of Women and Gender in International Development. Students, faculty, staff and members of the community are encouraged to attend the discussions and bring their ideas and questions. For the Fall 2014 discussion series schedule, see our WGD Discussion Series Events page.

Please share this information widely, and encourage others to attend.

We look forward to seeing you there.

The Women and Gender in International Development program:

  • Provides leadership within the office to ensure that programs are gender-sensitive and have a positive impact on the most disadvantaged beneficiaries, many of whom are women
  • Seeks funding for research and development projects focusing on women
  • Involves Tech faculty and students in collaborative activities with host country counterparts

The WGD Program now offers internship opportunities through the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Virginia Tech, as well as through the Geography Department. For internships in Women's and Gender Studies, visit VT's Women's & Gender Studies program page. Individuals interested in pursuing internship or independent study opportunities not associated with the Women's and Gender Studies Program may contact the WGD Program Director for more information.

Be sure to explore all the links on this website to find out more about gender and development at Virginia Tech and the research projects with which the WGD Program is involved. The Resources section also provides several links to other WGD programs as well as international organizations working with gender and development, and more.

Selected Stories about our WGD program

Graduate Student Researches Gender Roles in the Bolivian Andes - Keri Agriesti, a Virginia Tech graduate student in geography, is studying the connection men and women who farm in Bolivia have with the soil. Agriesti works under Maria Elisa Christie, program director of Women in International Development. The work is a part of a gender component of the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Program (SANREM Innovation Lab), managed by Virginia Tech. Read more...

Summer Gender Workshop in Ghana to Reach 9,000 Farmers - The West African regional IPM Innovation Lab project held a workshop in Tuobodom, Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana on gender roles and pesticide use in tomato farming, July 19-22, 2011. Facilitated by Maria Elisa Christie, Program Director of Women and Gender in International Development at Virginia Tech and lead researcher in the IPM Innovation Lab Gender Global Theme, the workshop trained senior scientists from the Ghanian Crop Research Institute, agricultural extension agents, a member of Ghana's National Service, and a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture's Women in Agricultural Development program, 24 participants in all. The workshop's content is expected to reach 9,000 farmers in the extension agents' regions. Read more...

University program empowers women through gender workshop in Mali - The West Africa IPM Innovation Lab regional program held a 4-day gender workshop in Mali from June 15-18. The workshop, "Gender, Participatory Research, and Technology Transfer," drew 30 researchers, extension agents, and representatives from institutions in West Africa that partner with the IPM Innovation Lab. Read More...

Peanut Innovation Lab Success Story: Women, Health, and Peanuts in Uganda - Learn how Christie's research in a Ugandan community in 2011 on peanuts and how the harvesting and processing of the crop might be tweaked for better results led to the publication of Farmers Stories from Kamuli.

Farmers' Stories From Kamuli - Women and men farmers from the Namwendwa Sub-County in the Kamuli District of Uganda have long depended on the groundnut (peanut) as a vital source of food and livelihood. It is central to their culture. This book raises awareness of the problems caused by aflatoxins in groundnut and other crops and suggests appropriate post-harvest practices to reduce their impact on health and nutrition. Farmers were asked to trace the path of the groundnut from field to plate. Here they describe their groundnut practices both before and after harvest. In addition to the personal farmer accounts, maps, and drawings, the book includes recipes, providing a rich appreciation of the importance of groundnut in everyday life in this region of the country. To download a printer-friendly copy of the book, use this link: Farmers' Stories From Kamuli (PDF, 3.04 MB).

Central Asia Program Receives Gender Training - Members of the research team of the Central Asia Regional Integrated Pest Management Project attended the workshop "Training the Trainers: Gender and Participatory Methodologies in Agricultural Research," presented by Dr. Maria Elisa Christie on May 14. Participants were asked to consider the two basic questions of gender research: "How does gender affect our projects?" and "How do our projects affect gender?" To read the full story, visit Central Asia Program Receives Gender Training at the IPM Innovation Lab website.

WGD Program Director Dr. Christie visits the University of Texas at Austin - Dr. Maria Elisa Christie recently traveled to Austin, Texas to address a departmental colloquium and explain how peanuts, an important part of the East African diet, can become contaminated with toxins and create a major public health challenge. She also spoke to a packed classroom of freshmen in the Latin American Environmental History and Sustainability course, discussing her trailblazing doctoral research on the spaces of food preparation in central Mexican culture. For more about her visit, read the full story at the News site for University of Texas at Austin's Geography Department (external link).