VETS Voices | VETS Volunteer Voices: Interview with Kavitha in Vietnam, October 2023
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On the Path to Gender Equity in One Health Initiatives: My VETS Volunteer Journey

This story was contributed by Kavitha Sriparamananthan, Gender Advisor at Veterinarians Without Borders/Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VWB/VSF). Kavitha was a VETS Volunteer in Vietnam from February 2021 to October 2023.

headshot of VETS volunteer, Kavitha

In the world of One Health initiatives, my volunteer journey with Veterinarians without Borders has been nothing short of transformative. Let me take you through the incredible story of how a collaborative effort is making significant strides in championing gender equity, not as a series of tasks, but as a testament to the unwavering commitment of our team, local communities, and invaluable partners.

In my role as a Gender Advisor Volunteer with VETS in Vietnam, I collaborated with the Institute of Environmental Health and Sustainable Development (IEHSD) and two partnering universities within the Vietnam One Health University Network (VOHUN). Our mission was clear: conduct a comprehensive gender analysis that would serve as a practical guide for seamlessly integrating gender into One Health initiatives.

An initial literature review examining gender differences in antibiotic use across Southeast Asia piqued the interest of the universities, prompting them to delve deeper into the impact of gender on the experiences of small-scale farmers.

From the outset, I recognized that limited skills and knowledge were preventing the incorporation of gender perspectives into our One Health initiatives. Gender integration was viewed as a formidable challenge, or one that required the expertise of a gender specialist. This was especially true in the context of small-scale farmers and university students – pivotal players in rural community engagement. This realization spurred us into action.

Our two-step study commenced with a learning needs assessment focused on students from Thai Nguyen University of Agriculture and Forestry and Thai Nguyen University of Medicine and Pharmacy. This assessment highlighted a demand for practical application in conducting a gender analysis, propelling us to the next phase of our initiative.

In collaboration with IEHSD, a gender analysis tool was developed to explore the role of gender in the lives of small-scale farmers. This tool delved into gender dynamics, norms, roles, and responsibilities. Following training facilitated by me, IEHSD staff took charge of training university students and lecturers on data collection. The subsequent data collection was meticulously analyzed by the IEHSD team, with my technical support.

This collaborative effort underscores the transformative power of capacity-building initiatives. The skills and knowledge acquired have not only enhanced the capabilities of our partner organization but have also contributed to the seamless integration of gender perspectives into their activities. This, in turn, has empowered them to effectively train their local partners in this critical aspect.

Kavitha, a VETS volunteer, doing a training session in Vietnam

The impact of our initiative is significant, reaching 200 university students and 30 farmers in Thai Nguyen province. The Gender Learning Needs Assessment and Community Gender Analysis uncovered crucial insights into gender dynamics, cultural beliefs, and decision-making patterns among farming households. The training of data collectors further strengthened our capacity to gather meaningful insights.

Our efforts have positioned IEHSD as a leader in gender mainstreaming within the Southeast Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN). A significant milestone was achieved with the development of a specialized module dedicated to assessing gender in One Health initiatives. This module, disseminated widely, serves as a guidepost for promoting inclusivity and awareness, effectively addressing the challenges faced by women and girls.

In fact, our work didn’t conclude with success; it has expanded. Our impact has been scaled up through the creation and dissemination of a Gender Mainstreaming Tool Guide that I crafted. This guide provides step-by-step instructions and a practical example for integrating gender perspectives into One Health initiatives. IEHSD actively shares this resource with local partners, fostering inclusivity and awareness across projects and programming.

Looking ahead, the sustainability and scalability of this tool are envisioned through its continued application in diverse contexts. Collaborative efforts among stakeholders, drawing on a combination of organizational resources and partnerships, will ensure its ongoing success and adaptability to various settings.

Reflecting on my transformative VETS volunteer journey, I take pride in having played a role in empowering change. The manuscript developed for publication will further disseminate our findings, contributing to the broader knowledge base in the field. The ongoing journey towards gender equity in One Health initiatives continues, leaving an enduring mark on the landscape of sustainable development and inclusivity.

VETS (Volunteers Engaged in Gender-Responsive Technical Solutions) is a 7-year initiative (2020-2027) to improve the economic and social well-being of marginalized people, particularly women and girls, in 6 countries across Africa and Asia. In collaboration with local partners, the program is implemented through 190 Canadian volunteers on international assignment and is generously funded by Global Affairs Canada. Learn more here. 

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