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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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5 July 2017

40th Session of FAO Conference

Special Event on Gender

Mr. Hugo Martinez, Minister for Foreign Affairs, El Salvador
Mr. Fatimata Dia Sow, Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
Mr. Ty Sokhun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia
Mr. Ali Recep Nazli, General Director of Foreign Relations and EU Coordination of Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, Turkey
Distinguished panelists, guests, ladies and gentlemen; 

It is my pleasure to address you at this Special Event.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are key elements in achieving sustainable development, in particular a world free from hunger and malnutrition.

Women are key contributors to food security and nutrition in their households and communities.

Their role goes beyond agricultural production, and extends throughout the food system.

But as we all know, rural women continue to face multiple constraints.

In general, they have less access to productive resources, employment opportunities, markets, and appropriate technologies.

In addition, evidence shows that women are more affected by the consequences of conflicts, crises and the impacts of climate change.

During a drought situation, for example, a greater work load is placed on women’s shoulders. Literally.

In Africa and Latin America, women can spend up to 8 hours a day searching for water in times of drought. And then walk many kilometers carrying a bucket of water on their head.

This situation changed in Brazil, for instance, with the Government of former President Lula.

He started to implement a programme to put in place one million small cisterns to store rainfall.

I saw myself the relief of those women benefited from this programme.

They started to have time for other activities, including taking time for themselves. 

In a small city called Guaribas, in Northeast Brazil, which was the pilot of the Zero Hunger programme, some women opened a hair salon only a few months after water became available in their village.

They became businesswomen.

So access to fresh and drinking water is fundamental to unlock the potential of rural communities.

In this sense, FAO has developed some modules for providing drinking water for rural population.

This is will be included in our projects to be presented to the Global Environment facility (GFE) and also to the Green Climate Fund.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Gender is mainstreamed throughout FAO’s Strategic Framework, as a cross-cutting theme.

Let me give you some examples of how FAO is supporting rural women in addressing the challenges I just mentioned.

We provide, for instance, technical support in more than 15 countries, including Rwanda, Belize, Bolivia, Afghanistan and Tunisia. 

Women’s access to training opportunities has increased, and this allows them to further invest and expand their productive activities.

In Afghanistan, women have gained more income  from their involvement in the dairy value chain.

FAO also recognizes that supporting rural women requires a broad range of partnerships.

A good example is the joint effort of FAO, IFAD, WFP, and in particular UN Women, which is the agency in the UN System specialized in gender. 

Together, we are supporting national governments to implement a global programme called “Accelerating progress towards the economic empowerment of rural women”.

This programme aims to improve rural women’s livelihoods in 7 countries, among them Guatemala, Nepal and Ethiopia.

As a result, more women in these countries have been able to open bank accounts in their own names. More women are accessing credit. And more women are running their own individual businesses.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Just some months ago in December, FAO co-organized here at Headquarters a High Level Event on the importance of Rural Women, in collaboration with the European Union, IFAD, WFP and UN Women.

Today’s event is great opportunity to continue this process of exchanging experiences, learning from each other and sharing examples on how to accelerate progress in empowering rural women.

Looking forward, in September, a Forum on women’s empowerment will take place here in Rome, in the context of the Committee on World Food Security.

I would also like to mention that FAO is part of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Rural Women, in collaboration with IFAD and WFP.

This Task Force will guide the technical discussion  towards the meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women that will take place in March next year. The priority theme is the empowerment of rural women and girls.

Let me conclude by saying that FAO is fully committed to support Members in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Rural women and girls are key agents of change to free the world from hunger and extreme poverty, and leave no one behind.

Thank you for your attention