Director-General  QU Dongyu

FAO’s Women’s Committee celebrates its first anniversary inviting an award-winning journalist from Kenya


16 October 2020, Rome – The FAO Women’s Committee yesterday held a special session to celebrate its first anniversary in the presence of the Director-General featuring as special guest, Kenyan TV anchor and winner of the 2020 BBC World News Komla Dumor Award, Victoria Rubadiri.

Rubadiri is a presenter with Citizen TV in Kenya and the sixth winner of the prestigious award. In her virtual address to some 300 participants, Rubadiri shared her life story and said she was inspired by the women in her family – her 93 year-old grandmother, a former teacher who has always encouraged her to challenge the “status quo”, and her mother, who was a radio producer. 

She also spoke of other women and mothers who had inspired her, as they were striving to take care of their jobs and careers and raise their children.

“Regardless of culture, geography, social status or personal wealth, the will to survive and thrive is the common thread in their stories and mine,” Rubadiri stated.  She reflected on how life had taught her the importance of personal commitment and perseverance and called for women to continue to “blaze the trail”.

FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, congratulated Rubadiri for her passion and enthusiasm. He also thanked the committee and congratulated all the women who work for the UN agency as this year’s World Food Day (16 October) also marks FAO’s 75th anniversary. 

“This gathering reflects the diverse and energetic nature of FAO’s female workforce, which I applaud for its commitment and valuable contribution to the work of the Organization,” Qu said, adding that the Women’s Committee, which he established last year on the International Day of Rural Women, also recognizes the importance of women in food security and nutrition.  

“Rural women are resilient, resourceful, industrious and innovative. I am proud that FAO’s work in fisheries, forestry, crops, livestock and many other areas has empowered rural women on the ground to turn the challenges of poverty, hunger and hardship into opportunities for the economic and social well-being of their families and communities,” he said. 

The Director-General described the committee as “a strong voice” for the future of girls around the world. “The world is home to more than 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18, who are poised to become the largest generation of female leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers the world has ever seen,” Qu said.

“Yet, every day, women and girls face persistent structural constraints that prevent them from fully developing their potential and hinder their efforts to improving their lives as well as those of others around them. This situation must change, and I believe that together we can contribute to it.”

The Director-General also spoke of his personal efforts to ensure strong female representation in the Organization at all levels and presented a poem he wrote in Chinese entitled “Harmonizing FAO”, which highlighted the unique mission of the Organization, where the cooperation between women and men is the real strength. 

Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo, the Chairperson of the FAO Women’s Committee, described the committee’s role as a “platform for dialogue”.  

She noted that the committee was working to provide a workspace where women can feel emotionally and physically safe to express themselves, while also working to identify opportunities for training, mentoring and skills development.

“We want to develop skills and talent, enrich career paths and opportunities. This not only enriches individuals, but the Organization as a whole,” Semedo said.

Deputy Director-Generals Semedo and Beth Bechdol promoted further discussion with FAO senior staff at the virtual meeting about the committee’s role and potential in a “fireside chat”.

Many of those attending, from both FAO’s headquarters and decentralized offices around the world, took the opportunity to thank the Director-General for establishing the Committee and for his continuous action to promote gender equality.