Women continue to face multiple barriers to market access, which are often seen as the domain of men: this can make it challenging for women to make a sustainable living. It can be more difficult for women, or other marginalised groups, to gain a deep understanding of what markets are, how they operate, what buyers are really looking for and how to establish win-win market relationships. Some producers’ groups, such as women's agricultural collectives, do not know if the economic activities they engage in are truly profitable, or what it would take to make them profitable. In many cases, simple adjustments to activities are all that is needed to become more sustainable and profitable. In other cases, however, more complex interventions may be necessary, for example to respond to changing agricultural patterns related to climate change.
Our approach to market access empowers women to undertake and act on market assessments themselves. It emphasises the importance of analysing the market from a gender perspective, examines the economic, social and environmental sustainability of initiatives, and ensures that all actors in the market can share its value equitably, creating wealth for all.
This handbook uses a range of participatory tools to explore how women and local communities can identify the challenges to and potential of market access. We and our partners support local groups to use this methodology to improve the way they understand, access and benefit from markets, to help them become more self-sufficient and independent.