May 15, 2024
CSW68 Blog: An opportunity of a lifetime

Comfort Yelipoie is a Senior Agricultural Officer at Ghana’s Directorate of Crop Services, where she is working to review the national seed investment plan to make it gender-responsive. As a beneficiary of the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD’s) Gender Responsive Agriculture Systems Policy (GRASP) Fellowship, Comfort was shocked when she was selected by the program to attend the 68th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68) in New York. Here, she describes what the opportunity meant to her – and her key takeaways from this prestigious event.

When I received an email from AWARD about my nomination to participate in CSW68 in New York, I could not believe my eyes. I checked with a colleague to ensure it was not a hoax! I knew that attending such an important conference on how we can best invest in women to promote inclusivity in the food system was a life-changing opportunity. The combination of excitement and anxiousness continued to build until the day of departure.

As a first-time traveler to the USA, I was scared and unsure of what to expect in a foreign country miles away from home—a stranger in a very fast-paced world.

However, on arriving at the United Nations Headquarters (UN) building where the event was to be held, I soon realized that nobody – including the New York Police Department (NYPD) – was paying much attention as I went about my business. I felt more relaxed to enjoy my brief stay to the fullest.

On arriving at the event, I was encouraged to see such a diversity of women participants—all hailing from different parts of the world—with varied cultures and ways of dressing. I had the opportunity to visit the Vital Voices stand, which showcased the work being done by young men and women from all over the world to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

For example, Nora Jeanne Joseph, the Founder and Chief Root Cultivator of RADIKAL, has invested in agricultural practices used by cooperatives in Haiti to make them more sustainable and profitable for the marginalized women who run them. Talking with Nora and hearing about the impact of her work gave me a real boost of motivation to continue promoting inclusivity in the seed system.

During the AWARD side event, I was excited to present the policy work I am involved with. Through the Fellowship, I have been working on a Policy Innovation Project to review the National Seed Strategy and Investment Plan and recommend how it can better cater to the differing needs of men and women along the seed value chain.

This gender-responsive plan will facilitate efficient budgeting for implementing interventions to empower women seed producers to deliver quality seeds of preferred crop varieties.

One of my key learnings from the AWARD side event was that gender-responsive policy must be implemented through a holistic approach that considers social norms within the system and the interconnection among existing and new policies. Furthermore, policy should deliberately promote and outline strategies to give women equal opportunities to access limited resources competitively.

Although I was inspired by everyone I interacted with, the one person who stood out for me was Dr Susan Kaaria, Director of AWARD. I have always admired her from afar, but at the event, I was able to interact with her over breakfast and during prepping for the AWARD session. Her humility, calmness, positive energy, and genuine and keen interest in all aspects of my personal and work life awed me. One thing she said that really resonated was “instead of saying ‘why me,’ rather say ‘why not me?’”

Someone else who inspired me was my GRASP Fellowship colleague, Dr. Clara Chinwoke Ifeanyi-obi, whose Policy Innovative Project is so exciting and impactful and will improve climate studies in Nigeria and the sub-region.

The climate change assessment tool she will develop will be used to monitor and generate evidence for effective policy formulation and implementation. Clara has an infectious personality, and perseverance and dedication give me the courage to use my voice effectively to fight for women’s increased participation in the seed value chain.


African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD). Hosted by World Agroforestry Centre, United Nations Avenue, Gigiri. P.O Box 30677-00100 Nairobi, Kenya.

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