Rural women and food security in Asia and the Pacific:
Prospects and paradoxes

Revathi Balakrishnan
Senior Officer, Gender and Diversity
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

With contributions on the Pacific Islands from
Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop, Samoa.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Bangkok, Thailand


Table of Contents

The designation and presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers and boundaries.

All rights reserved. Reproduction and dissemination of material in this information product for educational or other non-commercial purposes are authorized without any prior written permission from the copyright holders provided the source is fully acknowledged. Reproduction of material in this information product for sale or other commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission of the copyright holders. Applications for such permission should be addressed to Revathi Balakrishnan, Senior Officer, Gender and Development, FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Maliwan Mansion, 39 Phra Atit Road, Bangkok 10200, Thailand or by e-mail to [email protected].

ISBN: 974-7946-80-7

Graphic support:
Apinya Petcharat, Bangkok

Research assistance:
Panpat Plungricharoensuk, Bangkok

Editorial support:
Mary Rhodes, USA

For copies write to:

Revathi Balakrishnan

Senior Officer, Gender and Diversity

FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Maliwan Mansion, 39 Phra Atit Road

Bangkok 10200


Tel: (+66) 2 697 4000

Fax: (+66) 2 697 4445

E-mail: [email protected]

Printed in December 2005.

© FAO 2005

Table of Contents


Abbreviations and acronyms

Food security and rural women

Asia and the Pacific region: Dissimilarities and common dilemma

Asia and the Pacific region: Rural women’s equality challenges

Macro scenario of regional women’s economic activity and education

Regional rural women’s participation in the agriculture sector
Rural women’s educational status: Regional overview

Rural women in household production: Increasing contributions and persisting drudgery

Rural women’s increasing economic contributions

South Asian rural women
Southeast Asian rural women
East Asian rural women
Central Asian rural women
Pacific Islands’ rural women

Persisting household drudgery
Enduring indifference to rural women’s work and inequity in resource access
Unpaid work: Persisting social ignorance and economic indifference
Facets of inequity in rural women’s access to resources

Land assets
Natural resource assets
Local groups and social capital
Education: Formal and informal
Female-headed households

Rural women’s resource access inequity matrix

Regional trends affecting the situation of rural women

Economic transformation and agriculture’s contribution
Global economic integration
Rural development service gap amidst regional prosperity
Demographic shifts and population dynamics
HIV/AIDS posed threats to rural communities
Regional political realties and governance dynamics

Civil conflicts
Decentralized governance

Policy and institutional constraints impeding rural women’s advancement
Social programmes for empowerment of rural women
Environmental destruction and natural disasters

Environmental degradation and vulnerability
Disasters and vulnerability

Emerging technologies: Production and communication

Agriculture technologies
Integrated Pest Management
Livestock revolution
Farmer Field School
Information and communication technologies

Accelerating advancement of rural women in Asia and the Pacific region

Information on rural women
Gender planning in agricultural and rural development
Valuation of unpaid work
Empowering rural women with education and information
Reduction in household drudgery for productivity and empowerment
Technologies and training for rural women
Systematic study of rural gender dimensions