Posted: January 24, 2020

Emily Southard spent eight weeks this past summer in Battambang Province, Cambodia conducting interviews with farmers, traders, sellers, and key informants in the country's vegetable value-chains.

Emily, a master's student in Rural Sociology and INTAD, wanted her thesis to focus on gender in Cambodia's vegetable value-chains, as the vegetable sector is dominated by women. Vegetable production and sales are a major entrepreneurship opportunity for women, providing a unique income generation activity regardless of women's age or education level. Emily's research questions why this work is gendered as women's work and explores linkages between women's participation in the vegetable sector, their agency in their households, and their self-perception of empowerment.


In many countries around the world women's mobility is limited, but Cambodia stands in contrast. Women are often in the move, riding motorbikes which are the primary form of transportation in the country. This is one of the numerous factors that demonstrate the high rate of women's empowerment in the country. The Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) survey conducted in Cambodia found that 92 percent of participants were considered adequately empowered, significantly higher than other countries surveyed. This interesting finding was one of the things that inspired Emily's thesis work in Cambodia.


Emily conducted 60 qualitative interviews with both men and women farmers, traders, and sellers in the vegetable value-chain, as well as with key informants in the area. She lived and worked in the city of Battambang for eight weeks, frequently traveling to the nearby rural village of Anlong Thmey. She was assisted by a graduate student in Sustainable Agriculture from the University of Battambang who provided translation services. Emily's thesis is part of a larger multi-university project aimed at promoting sustainable intensification in Cambodia's vegetable farms, in conjunction with Penn State's Women in Agriculture Network (WAgN) project.


Now back in State College and working on writing her thesis, Emily hopes that her research will help further our understandings of the social construction of gender and gender essentialism in Cambodia. Moreover, she's excited to contribute to the literature on pathways to women's empowerment, interrogating the role that income generation plays in women's achievement of empowerment.


Acknowledgements

Emily Southard's thesis fieldwork for her thesis titled “Empowerment Tempered by Essentialism: Gender in Cambodia's Vegetable Value Chains" received funding from:

  • The Pennsylvania State University's International Agriculture and Development Program
  • United States Agency for International Development

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International Programs

Address

106 Agricultural Administration Building
University Park, PA 16802