During the busy and exiting days of the IDF business meetings and IDF World Dairy Summit (WDS), there was one meeting I was particularly excited for. On the Sunday the very first IDF Women in Dairy Roundtable was scheduled. A room filled with 42 women and men from 20 countries covering all aspects of the dairy sector and all continents to converse about the role of women in dairy. This historical moment filled with emotions and facts, having all shared their knowledge and experience demonstrated the significant value of exchange.
I do not use the word ‘privilege’ lightly. It is amazing how much we can get inspired in such a small amount of time. Both our moderator Lynda Mcdonald from Tetra Pak and our keynote Krysta Harden, CEO of USDEC, graciously shared their personal stories setting the tone for our small table discussion on the role of innovation and technology in empowering women in dairy.
In my concluding remarks, I first mentioned the strength of working together to enable change and the value of diversity of thinking. Three majors take aways:
- 1) Access: women rights and financial autonomy are the basis to empowerment (access to land ownership, government programs, financing, bank account);
- 2) Leadership: We need to ask for the change we need (integrate criteria and request inside our programs and projects);
- and 3) even simple technologies and innovation can make major changes in women’s lives (adapted machineries, collective ownership of a transport mode or equipment piece, day care access, R&D focused on women, pilot projects to demonstrate that women can do it, safe space for discussion, networking opportunities).
We took the opportunity to launch our first IDF Women in Dairy Report, with 15 case studies as examples of women empowerment in every step of the dairy value chain. From veterinary practices in Mexico, increasing production efficiency and market access in India, Senegal and Nigeria to upskilling women in different fields such as the programs in South Africa and New Zealand. The unique insights women can give to develop new products in the examples given from China and Japan. Finally, the vast network provided in national peer groups such as the ones in UK, Ireland and US.
This is only the beginning of the journey. We have set up a closed LinkedIn group for the participants of this roundtable, giving the opportunity to continue to engage and share experience.
For generations, the dairy sector has been contributing to empowerment of women and it could do even more in the years to come. Women are contributing to the global dairy sector and to a healthy and sustainable world. See you next at the IDF webinar on March 8, 2024 to celebrate the international women’s day. The next physical roundtable will be held in Paris at the IDF WDS in Paris in October 2024.