Ladies and Gentlemen.
Thank you very much to you all for accepting our invitation to this Gender consultation meeting. It is indeed a great pleasure and an honor to have you here with us today . I would like to extend a warm welcome to you all on behalf of FAO and on my own behalf.
As you are well aware, FAO’s mandate is to combat poverty and hunger which includes monitoring progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, especially MDG number one which is targeted to reducing extreme poverty and hunger by half by the year 2015. Despite achieving the fastest economic growth in past decades, the Asia and Pacific region is still home to 578 million undernourished people in 2010, which represented 62 percent of the world total undernourished population. Added to this is the problem of food insecurity due to the rapidly growing population of the region which is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 from the present level of 6.8 billion.
Agriculture, the main source of employment in rural areas and the source of food for all, is crucial in addressing and providing solutions to reducing poverty and hunger. According to the FAO’s latest SOFA publication titled “ The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 – women in agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development”, more than 100 million people could be lifted out of poverty if women were enabled the same access to productive resources as men. The SOFA also argues that closing the gender gap could increase the agricultural output in the developing world by 2.5-4%, on average, with higher gains possible in countries where women are more involved in agriculture and where the gender gap is wider.
The 56th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women which was held in February to March 2012 in the United Nations Headquarters in New York, had as a discussion theme “empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenge” which is indication that the subject is considered of significant importance UN wide. Why? Well you are already aware of the multiple roles rural women play. Rural women everywhere play important roles in agriculture (in all parts of the world) and carry out a wide range of agricultural and non-agricultural work as farmers, farm workers and as entrepreneurs in addition to undertaking domestic tasks, such as caring for children and the elderly. They play a crucial role in ensuring and promoting food security and nutrition. . However, despite these multiple roles women play in agriculture and rural enterprises, their contribution is often not recognized or well-understood and so gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society. In most countries in this region, women face gender-specific constrains that reduce their productivity and limit their opportunities and contributions to agricultural production, economic growth and well-being of their families, communities and countries. Thus improved gender equality regards access to opportunities, resources and services would not only unlock the productivity potential of women but also improve nutrition and health outcomes, and bring about long-lasting impact on facilitate economic growth by raising the levels of human capital.
For the UN, gender approaches that give attention to the needs of both women as well as men should, is being given high priority in the development and implementation of rural development agenda. In this respect, an FAO Gender Policy has been developed/approved and for which the whole organization is required to include attention to gender as an important part of our work. As well, a Human Resources Strategic Action Plan has also been endorsed by our Director-General to promote gender mainstreaming in human resources policies, processes and procedures in order to compliment the organization wide efforts. In line with these efforts , FAO has organized this week a two-days internal consultation meeting to explore ways to promote gender mainstreaming in our work programme and projects in order to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of our delivery in addressing food security and increase the effectiveness of agricultural development strategies being promoted and implemented. In this connection, we look forward to learn from our partners– UN sister agencies, donors and NGOs, lessons and strategies on mainstreaming a gender sensitive approach to food security, nutrition and rural development and explore future collaborative opportunities in rural gender equality issues from you.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I believe today’s consultation meeting with you will provide all the opportunity for the exchange of views and explore ways for collaboration on this important subject relating to gender mainstreaming.
We look forward to fruitful discussions and thanks once again for attending.