Executive Summary - Making the strongest links

Executive Summary

Today, it is widely recognized that enterprises – whether micro-, small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – are vital links in both local and global supply chains, networks and systems. Many are linked into interconnected production and economic activities though they operate in different local, national and international geographical areas. Often, gender plays a critical role in the performance of value chains and may be a key element in improving their quality, boosting growth and productivity and reducing poverty. Yet gender analysis, - or, the examination of the differences in the lives of women and men, their access to resources, their activities, and the constraints they face relative to each other - is often the weakest link in value chain analyses.

A new Guide from the International Labour Organization applies groundbreaking methods, originally developed by Dr. Linda Mayoux, for incorporating gender concerns into the different stages of value chain analysis and strengthening the links essential for gender equality and promoting sustainable pro-poor growth and development strategies.

“Making the strongest links: A practical guide to mainstreaming gender analysis in value chain development” draws from extensive fieldwork undertaken by the ILO’s Women’s Entrepreneurship and Gender Equality team (WEDGE). The Guide provides practical, user-friendly methodologies to help value chain practitioners, gender consultants, researchers and policy-makers involved in value chain analysis, answer a number of key questions that should be asked in any value chain development process.

The Guide helps users to improve the accuracy, relevance and usefulness of their work and policy recommendations through the inclusion of women’s perspectives and needs in value chain analysis and development; and ensures that their work leads to recommendations that:

  • empower women and further gender equality.
  • provide effective and sustainable value chain development for pro-poor development and decent work.
  • promote gender training and gender awareness among different stakeholders.

The Guide originated in an ILO project “Improving Market Access for Women in the Informal Economy”. It was used in action research for an analysis of the Ethiopian traditional weaving sector. It helped to identify ways in which women weavers could increase their market access, exercise more control over the production process and improve their position in the household and community. During the project it became clear that there was a need to improve the gender understanding and differences, and ultimately the capacity of local organizations and groups who carry out value chain analysis.

Applying this Guide effectively requires previous value chain analysis experience and a genuine interest in identifying and addressing gender issues at different stages and levels of the value chain analysis process. It also requires an openness to creative thinking about the challenges which gender presents to conventional economic analysis and methods.

The value chain approach is currently used in a number of the ILO projects, for example, in Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Sri Lanka.

Publication date: July 2009.

The fieldwork undertaken by WEDGE and this Guide were supported by the Government of Ireland through the ILO-Irish Aid Partnership Programme. For more information: Joni Simpson: Senior Specialist, Women and Youth Entrepreneurship Development, ILO Geneva, Simpson@ilo.org, Grania Mackie: Chief Technical Adviser, WEDGE Southern Africa, ILO Pretoria, Mackie@ilo.org , seed@ilo.org