PRISMA recognises that women, people with disabilities, the youth, and indigenous people can play vital and central roles in the economy. However, these segments typically face higher structural and social barriers to accessing and benefitting from markets and are often overrepresented among the poor. Not only do these segments struggle the most to engage economically but they are also least likely to benefit from economic growth compared to other segments of the poor.
As a program that aims to accelerate poverty reduction through promoting inclusive economic growth, PRISMA recognises the importance of engaging all market segments by enhancing participation and empowerment of women, people with disabilities, the youth, and indigenous people – or what we refer as neglected market segments. By doing so, it is expected they would contribute to and be benefitted from the economic growth.
Addressing GESI in PRISMA
Throughout program implementation, PRISMA has identified several main constraints related to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI), especially towards the neglected market segments. The range of barriers confronted by the segments includes but is not limited to:
Neglected market segments rarely have the same assets, services, and opportunities as the stereotypical poor male farmer. As a result, we need to be able to understand when and where these groups face additional barriers to markets and ensure that we are not treating poor farmers as a single homogenous group. In many instances, the barriers faced by these neglected market segments are either avoidable or could be overcome with some support. This, however, requires understanding why the market has failed to deliver solutions to these barriers: Why are embedded services not reaching these segments? Do input companies have a weak understanding of their customer base? Are they aware of the customer base but do not have the skills to effectively engage them? etc.
PRISMA’s GESI Approach and Strategy
From a Market Systems Development (MSD) perspective, it often makes business sense to engage females, who already account for a large proportion of the agricultural workforce, as well as other neglected market segments. Not pursuing GESI inclusive practices and ignoring up to 50% of the population could mean missing out on significant business opportunities and untapped market potential.
PRISMA extends its GESI strategy by mapping the behaviours of different social and economic consumer segments through heavy emphasis on consumer research. The GESI approach and strategy has evolved upon the basis of recognising women, poorer men, the young or elderly, people with disabilities, and ethnic minority groups as different consumer segments for our partners.
PRISMA promotes a commercially-driven, evidence-based approach to GESI. We believe that consistent and strategic use of GESI market intelligence can lead to improved GESI outcomes and also improved program and business partner outcomes.
At the core of what we do at PRISMA is our commitment to drive sustainable market innovation by developing new business models that are supported by strong commercially viable business cases. This is no different when working on GESI. Where there is a GESI business case, we will focus on providing evidence to convince business partners that women, people with disabilities, youth, and/or indigenous people are critical market players and on helping partners to reorientate their business and marketing approaches to recognise the commercial benefits from engaging these neglected market segments (e.g. through hiring women sales agents or targeting people with disabilities in marketing and GAP training to increase access of information to these segments).