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By: Esther Njuguna-Mungai, Gender Scientist, ICRISAT and GREAT Custom Course Client

Note: this blog was originally posted on the Tropical Legumes III project site, and is the first in a series of blogs related to the first GREAT Custom Course, created for the Tropical Legumes III project in November 2018.

In a world where ‘gender integration’ or ‘gender mainstreaming’ is prioritised and practiced, actors from different backgrounds come together in a ‘marriage’ arrangement of sorts, aimed at a joint objective. One outcome of this endeavor is that  participants start learning new words from other disciplines. The new terms learnt in this process can become exciting and they easily permeate daily conversations. These cross discipline interactions can also lead to formation of new terms and acronyms.  It is not uncommon to attend a workshop and think speakers are not even speaking in ‘English’ – especially in global partnerships like the CGIAR, where acronyms get formed and used until they become familiar terms in daily conversations.

Some of new terms are only ‘known and understood’ in the small working teams where they are used often, but others have evolved to be internationally accepted terms that most people know, understand and use often. For example, as a gender scientist working in agriculture and specifically in crop breeding programs, I start learning about breeding terms like ‘traits,’ ‘trait preferences,’ and ‘hereditability.’  Soon these terms start emerging in my conversations when I talk to my colleagues, when I present my work and when I bargain for different roles.  Does the ‘deeper meaning’ of such terms remains the same whenever it is used?  In some cases, perhaps, but every time it is used across disciplines is another game all together.

One term that caught my attention during the customised GREAT-TLIII training in Makerere is the term ‘empowerment’. Since this was the first time the training was being implemented, the topic ‘Women’s empowerment: Introduction and issues in agricultural development’ was not on the initial program.  As the 9-country teams of social scientist and breeders in attendance worked on their assignment, by day 3, it was evident that most of them were ‘working towards empowerment.’  The term was floating in the room and in many of the discussions and country plans. The contexts were different, the approaches were different and even the use of the term was different every time it was mentioned.  In my mind, I could see almost 30 differently positioned interpretations of the term every time it was mentioned, as each person (facilitators and participants) in the room interpreted the use of the term from their own perspective and experiences. During the breaks, the focus on the term was a running theme by the facilitators of the training, as well as the participants in the training.