Fellowship Number: 
Field Location: 
Asunción, Paraguay
Policy Location: 
Washington, DC
General Scope of Work: 
Women's empowerment in agricultural cooperatives
Description of Organization: 

ACDI/VOCA is a private, nonprofit organization that promotes broad-based economic growth, higher living standards and vibrant communities in low-income countries and emerging democracies. Our vision is a world in which people are empowered to succeed in the global economy. We seek to achieve this vision through our mission to promote economic opportunities for cooperatives, enterprises and communities through the innovative application of sound business practice.

Based in Washington, D.C., ACDI/VOCA has worked in 145 countries since 1963 and currently manages 84 projects in 40 countries. We do not address single problems in isolation but rather integrate approaches from our five core areas: 1) agribusiness; 2) enterprise development; 3) financial services; 4) community stabilization and development; and 5) food security.

Gender integration and women’s empowerment is a cross-cutting practice at ACDI/VOCA. We view gender equity as a crucial goal of our efforts as well as a necessary means for reducing global poverty and food insecurity. As an example of ACDI/VOCA’s commitment to gender integration, more than 60% of programs have a gender specialist on staff. The gender integration and women’s empower unit, led by our global gender advisor, undertakes strategic initiatives, such as the gender strategy of the Paraguay Cooperative Development Program, which seeks to strengthen cooperatives to be a strong vehicle for women’s empowerment. This strategy has a special focus on increasing women’s leadership in cooperatives. 

Project Description: 

The Cooperative Development Program (CDP) in Paraguay works with agriculture cooperatives providing technical assistance to improve crop techniques and promote institutional strengthening. CDP recognizes that gender issues are central to the achievement of strategic plans and development objectives for cooperatives. CDP is committed to promote gender equality in which women and men have equal opportunities to benefit from and contribute to economic, social, cultural and political development. By addressing gender inequities and constraints grounded in entrenched gender roles and power dynamics that impact both men and women, CDP strengthens the effectiveness of its overall development programming. Based on CDP’s experience working with cooperatives, the program developed a gender strategy with the main goal of enabling cooperatives to become more inclusive of and responsive to women farmers. 

Field Placement: 

During the field year, the fellow will work on the Paraguay Cooperative Development Program (CDP). CDP’s main objective in Paraguay is to increase the incomes of the rural poor in selected regions through technical assistance to producers and cooperatives provided by volunteer consultants. Cooperatives are an important institution in rural economies in Paraguay, yet women make up only 15–20 percent of positions on boards of directors. Without adequate representation on these boards, women´s interests and needs are not adequately represented in activities and allocation of resources. To address this issue, CDP in Paraguay has developed a gender strategy that focuses on increasing women´s access to leadership and decision-making positions in rural cooperatives.

In the summer of 2012, a volunteer consultant conducted a gender assessment and leadership training for four cooperatives supported by CDP. The Fellowship field assignment will follow up the assessment to strengthen the CDP development approaches from a gender perspective by building on many of the community’s recommendations, including the following:

  • facilitate exchange and information sharing sessions between women leaders in cooperatives and women who are not aware of the benefits of cooperative membership or leadership;
  • facilitate community, family-oriented events that highlight women’s leadership;
  • conduct management, leadership and gender awareness training to build self-esteem and confidence in women as leaders;
  • help cooperatives to establish coordination committees or women’s sub-committees as a space to build leadership;
  • make the business case to male cooperative leaders as to why women’s leadership roles in cooperatives are a good investment; and
  • increase awareness among women about the importance of women’s membership in cooperatives.
Policy Placement: 

During the policy year, the fellow will integrate his/her insights from the field into ACDI/VOCA’s broader organizational learning and policy development. Specifically, the fellow will help develop and update program guidance, tools and training on gender equity and development issues. The fellow also will assist the organization with its further thinking and development of various gender learning agendas. Finally, the fellow will cultivate contacts and represent the organization at broader community learning events and policy discussions to further expand the organization’s knowledge and reach on gender and development issues.

The fellow will gain leadership and technical skills through opportunities to lead gender trainings and assessments for programs overseas, using the skills and experience from the field assignment with the CDP program. The fellow will gain public speaking skills through submitting proposals and presenting at conferences and events on learning and policy implications regarding gender issues related to food security, agricultural value chain development and cooperative development. In addition, the fellow will gain leadership, networking and communication skills through his/her responsibility to lead a public learning event.

Education/Experience Required: 
  • Master’s degree in applied economics, rural development, agricultural economics, or other field related to international development;
  • Academic qualifications in global gender issues related to development and economic growth;
  • Familiarity with value chain development and market-driven development principles;
  • At least one year of experience working internationally at the community level on rural development issues, ideally related to women’s empowerment, gender issues and agricultural development;
  • Fluency in Spanish and English;
  • Strong verbal communication and presentation skills and ability to communicate effectively and respectfully regarding sensitive issues, such as women’s empowerment;
  • Strong written communication skills and ability to write clearly, concisely and compellingly; and
  • Dedication to gender equality. 


  • Expertise in organizational development principles, particularly for cooperatives;
  • Experience designing and conducting trainings particularly regarding leadership and management;
  • Skills in statistics, data analysis, monitoring and evaluation;
  • Familiarity with social media and diverse, modern methods of communication and information dissemination; and
  • Familiarity with USAID programs, strategies and policies, especially regarding gender equality and economic growth.