Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu

31st Session of the Regional Conference for Africa

Launch of the Regional Outlook on Gender and Agri-food Systems in Africa

Remarks by FAO Director-General, Dr QU Dongyu

28 October 2020

As prepared


Distinguished Delegates,

1. The Regional Outlook on Gender and Agri-food Systems in Africa, that we are launching today, is a powerful reminder of the absolute need to include gender equality and rural women’s empowerment in our priorities for this region. 

2. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the world in different ways, we know there is a need to rebuild stronger, more inclusive and sustainable food systems.

3. Women are crucial to this response, and rural women and men must be equal actors in this process. 

4. The pandemic has clearly shown us the central role that women play in our families, communities, and societies. 

5. So this is a very special event to mark the strength, innovation, creativity, resilience, and solidarity of women.

6. I would like to thank H.E. Josepha Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, for her commitment in joining hands with FAO to co-publish this book. 

7. The cover shows women carrying moringa leaves - a hardy plant in which all parts including the bark, leaves and pods provide food - symbolizing the resilience, knowledge, and innovation of women. 

8. In Africa, women are critical agents of change, fighting rural poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. They are the backbone of their households, communities, and rural economies. They carry essential roles in food production, processing, and marketing, and they are the champions of nutrition.

9. Yet, they continue to face multiple constraints due to persistent gender discrimination. Substantial gaps remain in access and control over productive resources and assets, services, information, and markets.  

10. However, there is hope. Over recent years, there have been remarkable political commitments to improve women’s condition and status. Overcoming the many challenges will require addressing the root causes of gender inequality through innovative and gender-transformative approaches. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

11. The year 2020 marked an important landmark for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. 

12. This year we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security, and the first five-year review of the Sustainable Development Goals, within the Decade for Family Farming. 

13. This year we are also living through an unprecedented health crisis that has profoundly affected our societies and economies. 

14. Women everywhere have been at the forefront of the response, as health and care workers, as food producers and providers, and have borne much of the brunt of the pandemic's social and economic impacts.  

15. We need to put gender equality and women’s empowerment at the centre of building back better, stronger, more resilient, sustainable agri-food systems. 

16. Amidst many challenges, we have lofty ambitions. 

17. We are all aware of the alarming trends of steadily increasing hunger and malnutrition in Africa. 

18. In addition to that, the COVID-19 pandemic is projected to have both short- and long-term impacts on the supply of and demand for food in Africa.

19. Despite the commitment to “leave no one behind”, we are still failing to protect the rights and meet the needs of the most vulnerable, especially women.

20. According to the findings of the report we are launching today, we must step up our efforts to create an enabling environment for rural women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the agri-food sector. 

21. We must distribute productive resources including land and access to skills, services, financing, jobs, and markets, more equally. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

22. I am proud that FAO’s work has empowered rural women on the ground to turn the challenges of poverty and hunger into opportunities for the economic and social well-being of their families and communities. 

23. Supported by Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland through the FAO Multi-partner Programme Support Mechanism (FMM), FAO is leveraging its knowledge and strategic partners to implement digital inclusion initiative to make data, information and statistics available and accessible to the female headed households in Rwanda and Senegal. 

24. The other day, I was very pleased and impressed to see a photo on the FAO website, showing a smiling Rwandan female farmer using a mobile phone while working in her maize field.  

25. However, our mission is far from being accomplished. 

26. We need to focus more on rural women and overcome the obstacles through solid partnerships. 

27. The FAO Women’s Committee was established last year on the International Day of Rural Women. The Women’s Committee is a strong female voice not only for the women in FAO but also for rural women around the world. 

28. I am certain that the Women’s Committee can contribute to strengthening and upscaling the solid partnership between the African Union Commission and FAO to promote a transformative agenda for gender equality and to empower women in agri-food systems. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

29. The publication we are launching today offers an in-depth review of the status, challenges, and best practices in empowering women in priority areas.

30. It provides the basis for informed and concrete action: sound policies, programmes and investment plans.

31. I am confident that our joint efforts will pave the way for a more empowered future for rural women and girls in Africa.

32. Let us pay tribute to the strength and resilience of women in Africa – and support them with our actions.

33. It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Thank you.