International Women’s Day | 5 Questions to Martha Yilma

For International Women's Day we asked 5 Questions to our colleague Martha Yilma.

International Women’s Day | 5 Questions to Martha Yilma

Martha Yilma is a Gender and Value Chain Development Officer working for ICCO in Ethiopia. She works for the STARS project (Strengthening African Rural Smallholders) which facilitates access for farmers (both women and men) to financial markets and agricultural services. 

1. Why is it important to adopt a gender lense in development projects?

“I can say that any development activity without the specific involvement of women would be a failure. In Ethiopia, women are part of the workforce and more than half of the population is women. Therefore, it would be useless not to involve women in development projects. Understanding the needs of women and empowering them towards their challenges, makes development sustainable and impactful”. 

2. Which constraints do women face in value chains and what are possible solutions?

“Many women face challenges in accessing finance, lack of knowledge and skills within value chains. They also lack information on the ecosystem they work in. Women face challenges in accessing information on time to know what is going on within their value chain. Solutions for these challenges can come for example from financial institutions. These institutions should consider and tailor loans to be suitable for women. Regarding information dissemination, development projects should initiate proper channels where women could easily access these information”.

3. What is the importance of networks for women?

“Following the challenges women face in relation to access to information and burden of reproductive work at household level, networks can enhance women to have better information about their value chain. Within STARS we work for example with Producer Organizations. These are primary cooperatives whose members are engaged in agricultural productions which undertake important functions on behalf of their members. These cooperatives aggregate members’ produce, search markets on behalf of members, and supply agricultural inputs such as chemicals and fertilizers. These kind of networks work well for women as they are located in their residential areas, and thus have easy access to them. These networks give women access to marketing, input and capacity development information”. 

4. What is the most inspiring woman you met during your work and why?

“There is this lady who inspired me in a way since she encourages other women in her organizations to take responsibilities and coaches them while they go through tough tasks. Hearing this, I asked her to be my mentor and she was willing to help me”.

5. What is your wish for the future of women?

“I wish women would overcome challenges they face both at household and commercial level, to see a better world”.

Further reading:

Article: 3 Reasons Why Women Are Important to Reach the SDGs
Blog:    Empowering Rural Women in Ethiopia
Blog:    Strong Women Strong Farms: Empowering Female Smallholders through Access to Finance


Strengthening African Rural Smallholder (STARS) is a five year program (2016 - 2020) that runs in Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Senegal and Ethiopia. It is implemented by ICCO and funded by Mastercard Foundation. The program, aims to break the cycle of poverty and food insecurity among 210,000 smallholder farmers by facilitating access to financial markets and agricultural services. 

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