Hello! I am Alessandra Galiè, a PhD Candidate at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. From 2006 to 2011 I collaborated with a Participatory Plant Breeding programme coordinated at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) to assess the impact of the programme on the empowerment of the newly involved women farmers in Syria. The findings helped to understand how empowerment as a process can take place, and were useful to make the programme’s strategies more gender-sensitive. I chose to work with a small number (Small-N) of respondents (12 women) and a mixture of qualitative methods to provide and in-depth understanding of changes in empowerment as perceived by the women themselves and their community.
- Small-N research is valuable. Small-N in-depth research is often criticised for its limited external validity. However, it was an extremely valuable methodology to explore a field of research that is relatively new with the aim of providing an understanding of complex social processes, of formulating new questions and identifying new issues for further exploration.
- Systematic evaluation should include empowerment. Empowerment is an often cited impact of development projects but rarely the focus of systematic evaluation. Assessing changes in empowerment required an approach that was specific to the context and intervention under analysis and that was relevant to the respondents and their specific circumstances. This revealed different positionalities of women in the empowerment process and the inappropriateness of blue print solutions to the ‘empowerment of women’.
- Measure gender-based implications. An analysis of the impact of a breeding programme on the empowerment of women showed that ‘technical interventions’ have gender-based implications for both technology effectiveness and equity of development concerns.
- Bent Flyvbjerg’s article in Qualitative Inquiry: Five Misunderstandings about Case-Study Research. On the value of Small-N research.
- Alessandra Galiè’s forthcoming article: ‘Empowering women farmers: the case of participatory plant breeding in ten Syrian households’. Frontiers: a Journal of Women Studies. To read more on the evaluation of empowerment mentioned above.
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