Home > About FAO > Who we are > Director-General > Statements > detail
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
Check against delivery

16 December 2016

High Level Event
Step It Up 
Together with Rural Women
to End Hunger and Poverty


Her Excellency Ms. Ammenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritius;

Her Excellency Ms. Gabriela Matecná, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of the Slovak Republic; through whom I also greet the Ministers of Burkina Faso and Kirgizstan;

His Excellency Mr. Neven Mimica, European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development;

Her Excellency Sika Kaboré, First Lady of Burkina Faso;

My dear friend Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD, through whom I greet the colleagues from other UN Agencies such as WFP and UN Women;

I also recognize the presence of Ambassador Antonio Patriota, Ambassador of Brazil to Italy and Chair of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW);

Ms. Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate in 2011;


Permanent Representatives to the UN Agencies in Rome;

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour to welcome you to this High-level Event on the importance of rural women in the fight against hunger and extreme poverty.

I thank the European Commission and the Slovak Presidency of the European Union for co-organizing this event with FAO, in collaboration with IFAD, WFP and UN Women.

Let me start by highlighting that the fight against extreme poverty and hunger will be won or lost in the rural areas of developing countries.

It is there that the vast majority of the nearly 800 million undernourished people rely on agriculture and natural resources for their living.    

Most of them are subsistence family farmers that barely manage to survive.

And at the same time, about 80% of the food consumed in developing countries comes from family farming.

This is a crucial sector, in which almost 45% of the labour force is formed by women. A figure that rises to 60% in parts of Africa and Asia.

These numbers alone show how important it is that rural women have the appropriate conditions to develop their capacities and carry out their activities.

This includes adequate and equal access to financial resources, services and opportunities.

Evidence shows that when it happens, the yields on their farms increase, natural resources are better managed, nutrition is improved, and livelihoods are more secure.

But unfortunately rural women still face many difficulties, especially in developing countries.

They have limited access to key productive elements such as land, water, credit, technology and information.

They face barriers in labour markets. And are more likely to be in low-status and poorly paid jobs, without legal or social protection.

In most developed and developing countries, women are also under-represented in governance mechanisms. And tend to have less decision-making power.

All of this must change.

Achieving gender equality and empowering women is not only the right thing to do.

It is a crucial ingredient in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Agenda 2030 recognizes that gender equality is fundamental for sustainable development.

Not only by establishing a stand-alone goal, SDG 5, but also by incorporating gender into all other Sustainable Development Goals.  

Gender is a cross-cutting theme in Agenda 2030, as it is here in the FAO’s Strategic Framework.

Gender components are an integral part of FAO’s work to achieve its five Strategic Objectives.

We have selected a video to show you an example of the support that FAO has given to rural women in Côte d'Ivoire.

The video will be shown just after this session.

It demonstrates how a simple and inexpensive technology is changing the way West African women smoke their fish, improving their livelihoods.

Another example I would like to highlight are the FAO Dimitra Clubs.

These Clubs are active in Niger, Senegal, Burundi, Ghana and other countries involving over 500 000 rural women and men.

The objective is to allow rural women and men to exchange information on the challenges they face and take action to improve their livelihoods.

Concrete results have been achieved in multiple areas, such as sustainable agricultural practices, nutrition, education, resilience, and social protection.

It has also generated more equitable relations, and increased women’s self-esteem and leadership.

Many more examples of FAO activities are highlighted in this new publication, whose name I quote: “Meeting our goals: FAO’s Programme for Gender Equality in Agriculture and Rural Development.”

This also shows actions and programmes implemented in collaboration with IFAD, WFP, UN Women and other partners.

Over the last biennium, we have provided technical support to over 130 countries to the benefit of rural women in all regions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Just two months ago we celebrated at IFAD the International Day of Rural Women.

Today, we have a great opportunity to reinforce the global momentum for gender equality and the empowerment of women.

This high-level meeting offers a valuable platform to address the structural causes and consequences of gender inequality in rural areas.

And to identify challenges, gaps and actions for unleashing the potential of rural women.

Next March, FAO, IFAD and WFP will together present the outcomes of this high-level event to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. 

Let me take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Antonio Patriota, Chair of the CSW, for his presence here today with us.

I would also like to thank the UN Women for recognizing FAO’s commitment and progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

FAO wishes to reinforce and scale up our joint effort with Member Countries, UN Agencies and other institutions devoted to empowering women in agriculture.

Rural women are key agents of change in our common goal of freeing the world from hunger and extreme poverty, and leaving no one behind.

Thank you for your attention.