Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu
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Director-General’s Welcome Remarks at the RBA International Women’s Day 2020

Friday 6 March 2020

Sheikh Zayed Centre, FAO Headquarters, Rome


Thank you, Cristina.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a special day, and welcome to the celebration of the International Women’s Day 2020!

FAO is honoured to host today’s event. It is being webcasted, and we do have an audience here, not as many as we expected but it is good because history is history. Every page in history is different from other pages. Still I hope that many years from now, when we remember 2020 International Women’s Day, it will be a special memory.

As customary, this is a joint undertaking with our Rome-based sister agencies. I appreciate my colleagues from IFAD and WFP who have joined us, together.

Rural women are a critical force in agriculture and food systems worldwide.

This is in addition to their work at home – preparing meals, caring for household members, and transmitting values, culture and knowledge. But they frequently face obstacles that prevent them from fully realizing their potential and their careers.

Women have less access to resources, assets and opportunities and often encounter barriers in becoming members of rural organizations and policy institutions.

As I have repeatedly said, women face four layers of obstacles: political, economic, cultural, and even biological. People are not happy with saying biological, but scientifically, biologically we are different, male and female. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Especially now, with developed technology and modern equipment, women have more advantages in some ways.

If we look at 100 or 200 years back, before liberation, before industrialization, that time was based more on biological strengths. At that time men, in general, were more powerful. Now, I think, there are big opportunities for us to create a more variable and equal environment for both men and women.


There is plenty of compelling evidence that food production and rural incomes increase when gender gaps in agriculture are reduced.

So, empowering rural women brings us closer to our goals to end hunger, achieve food security, and eliminate all forms of malnutrition. That is progress for all!

FAO is committed to contributing to overcoming gender inequalities in rural areas and accelerating the economic empowerment of rural women. Work on rural gender issues has always been an important part of FAO’s portfolio, and we have contributed on many levels in support of rural women.

For instance, in 2011 in the ground-breaking SOFA report on “Women in Agriculture”, for the first time FAO provided global data on the gender gap in agriculture. Today, FAO hosts several databases that contain sex-disaggregated data, for example FAOSTAT, AQUASTAT and RULIS, to name just a few.

Another important statistical initiative of FAO is the Gender and Land Rights Database, which currently provides reliable statistics for more than 90 countries. The database is used by countries to monitor the SDG indicators 5.a.1 and 5.a.2 on women’s land rights. As the custodian agency for these two SDG indicators, FAO has strengthened national capacities in 51 countries, and assisted 26 countries to report on progress in 2019.

FAO also contributes to expanding the body of knowledge on rural gender gaps. So far, FAO has produced over 80 Country Gender Assessments, with information about the multiple roles that women play in agriculture and rural development, and the challenges they face. National governments and UN country teams are increasingly using this information for evidence-based programming to strengthen gender equality in the agricultural sector.

Ensuring that women can benefit more equally from job opportunities in agri-food value chains is another area of focus for FAO. As of now, FAO has supported 24 countries worldwide to increase women’s opportunities in more than 22 value chains in livestock, fisheries and crops and other sectors. To develop gender-sensitive value chains, FAO provides capacity building material for all actors including government, public and private service providers, producers and rural organizations.

In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 100 thousand women are part of the FAO Dimitra Clubs that bring together women, men and youth to discuss common problems and determine ways to address them. The Dimitra Clubs have enabled an estimated 5.2 million rural people to improve their livelihoods and take their development in their own hands. Impact has been achieved in areas such as nutrition, agriculture, resilience, climate change adaptation, women’s leadership, gender equality, and social cohesion.

Another example is the Joint Programme on “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women” that FAO is implementing together with IFAD, WFP and UN Women. Providing a comprehensive package of capacity development and technical support in seven countries – Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda – the Programme has reached over 40,000 rural women and approximately 315,000 members of their households.

Women participating in the Programme have increased their agricultural productivity and the nutrition of their families. They have accessed credit and started their own businesses, thereby improving their incomes.

We are also making FAO a more gender-responsive organisation, and integrating gender considerations across all our technical and normative work.

On the International Day of Rural Women 2019 we launched the first-ever FAO Women’s Committee, providing an inclusive, safe space that reflects the diverse and energetic nature of FAO’s female workforce. The Women’s Committee is chaired at Deputy Director-General level and its Executive Chief comes from my office. The Committee plays an important role internally and serves as a bridge and new platform with our Membership, ensuring that FAO’s work on women is made more visible and more helpful.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

FAO will continue playing its part, in partnership with others, in strengthening gender equality, realizing women’s rights and accelerating their socio-economic empowerment.

Only then will we reach our common goal: to eradicate hunger, ensure food security, eliminate all forms of malnutrition, and make this world a better place for all of us.

Today’s event is as an opportunity to share experiences in reducing gender gaps in agriculture and rural areas.

Let us learn together, work together and contribute together to the empowerment of rural women.

Thank you very much.

Happy International Women’s Day!