Invisible helpers - women's views on the contributions of working donkeys, horses and mules to their lives

Invisible helpers - women's views on the contributions of working donkeys, horses and mules to their lives

In 2011 there were an estimated 112 million working equine animals in the world, with 43 million donkeys, 11 million mules, and 58 million horses. The large majority of these animals live in developing countries and provide daily support to hundreds of millions of poor households by doing a wide range of work in both urban and rural areas.

They have multiple functions, one of which is to earn money that is used by families to feed themselves, pay for goods, enrol children in schools and pay for healthcare. Women also depend on working equids - especially donkeys - for income generation, help with physically demanding household chores, as well as access to social opportunities such as membership of community groups.

This report is based on the findings from the Brooke’s Voices from Women research project which focuses on the role of working equids in the lives of women and the role of women as carers of the animals. The research puts the emphasis on listening to women’s views and experiences and understanding their needs and priorities with regards to livestock functions and their roles as women. Twenty focus groups were conducted in equine owning rural and urban communities in Ethiopia, Kenya, India and Pakistan. 

The report concludes with a set of recommendations:

  • a clear link in policy and practice should be drawn between working equine welfare and human development
  • working horses, mules and donkeys must be recognised in gender and livestock policy and programming
  • greater emphasis should be put on gender analysis and women’s participation in the development of livestock-related interventions aimed at women
  • the body of evidence on the roles of working equids in women’s lives must be increased
  • women’s access to training and extension services must be improved
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