7 March 2014
International Women’s Day
FAO, IDLO, IFAD, IFPRI, WFO and WFP
“Closing the gender gap in agriculture:
Equality for Women is Progress for All”
Mrs Mary Robinson,
Your Excellency Tehmina Janjua, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Ms Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of WFP
Mr Michel Mordasini, representing IFAD
Mr Shenggen Fen, Director-General of IFPRI
Ms Irene Khan, Director-General of IDLO
Ms Rose Akaki, from WFO Uganda
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to this International Women’s Day celebration!
FAO is honored to host the event this year. As usual, this is a joint undertaking with our Rome-based sister organizations, IFAD and WFP.
This year, IFPRI, the IDLO and WFO also join us as partners.
This year we are celebrating Women’s Day against the backdrop of the International Year of Family Farming. Family farmers are the dominant force in global food production. And, at the same time, they are among the world’s most vulnerable people.
Much of the future of global food security depends on their realizing their untapped potential. Rural women are an important part of this, not just as famers but also in processing, preparing and selling food at local markets.
There is no doubt in our mind that increasing support to family farming in general, and to women in particular, can improve food security and nutrition.
Today’s event is an opportunity to discuss how we can best do this, working together.
Our efforts also need to be practical and with a clear focus.
Let’s seize today’s event as an opportunity to share experiences of effective ways to reduce gender gaps for our common cause, which is to end hunger and make food systems sustainable.
Let me briefly share with you one experience from my native Brazil.
The cash transfer component of the Zero Hunger Program is an important part of the country’s success in fighting hunger. Almost 90% of transfers are channeled through women.
Today, nobody debates whether women should be the primary beneficiaries. But when we started in 2003 we had to go to court to uphold the decision to give women the card of the cash transfer program.
This small and simple move immediately empowered women to play a dominant role in family food management, and hence gain status within society.
Throughout the world there are many examples of how we can empower women and close the gaps that exist between men and women.
Let´s share them. As this year´s celebration points out: equality for women is progress for all.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want to add that in our efforts FAO to improve the working conditions of women in FAO we are opening a childcare center at Headquarters. Some months ago, we had already opened a nursing room at FAO.
The space for the childcare facility is offered by FAO in our premises and there will be no additional costs for the Organization in providing this service to staff. This is an important point because while we should - and are - taking measures to improve the well-being of FAO staff, we are not diverting funds from our mission.
Let me add that, today, over half of the total FAO staff is women. And they represent almost 40 percent of our professional staff.
We are taking further steps to increase the presence of professional women in FAO. In January and February I have appointed candidates for a total of 26 Professional and above-level positions, and 16 of them, roughly 60 percent, are women.
Today, I also instructed Human Resources to take additional measures to recruit qualified women from under-represented and non-represented candidates.
This way, we continue to bring to FAO qualified women to contribute to the fight against hunger.
Happy Women’s Day and thank you for your attention.