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Summaries of the presentations are included in the following order:

1. Opening session
2. Closing session
3. Country experts
4. Invited resource persons
5. Invited development agency panel
6. FAO officers

Opening session presentations

Siene Saphangthong
Minister of Agriculture and Forestry
Government of Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The Minister highlighted the positive outcome of collaboration between FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry related to the food security plan in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is committed to social equity for all citizens regardless of age, sex or ethnicity; it will develop a comprehensive National Gender Action Plan (NGAP) to provide for gender equality as guaranteed under the constitution. The guaranteed gender equality is a factor in all spheres of "Lao Life" including decision-making, influencing policy, access to resources, enjoyment of the fruits of economic growth and in health and education.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic is experiencing rapid population growth and the depletion of farming areas due to use of agricultural land for other purposes. Soil fertility is deteriorating, the environment is losing its equilibrium and natural calamities seem to turn worse. Challenges in food production are increasing despite remarkable progress made in technology development for production. Food production to meet growing demands is a regional concern, not merely that of one country. Hence, regional action must alleviate poverty, to ensure food security and to provide opportunities for the younger generation. His Excellency wished the meeting successful deliberation and declared the meeting open on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

The Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative acknowledged the cooperative effort in organising the meeting between the Gender and Development Service of the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry with the National Agriculture and Research Institute as national partner and the FAO office in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. He emphasised the importance of addressing rural women’s situation as the development community enters the Beijing Plus 10 phase of advancement of women and focuses on Millennium Development Goals. Various policy instruments of FAO, such as the World Food Summit Plan of Action, emphasise the equal partnership of rural women and men to achieving food security. The FAO Gender Plan of Action is the instrument to integrate gender considerations in system wide activities of the organisation. He recognised that many regional policies and programmes overlook women’s crucial contribution to household and national food security. This oversight is not just a gender consideration, but also one of human capital endowment and investment interest. Rural women’s labour and knowledge are stable human capital inputs for the region’s agriculture and rural enterprises, most of which function on a subsistence basis. Yet, family investment in female education and public investment in women’s technical training to expand their economic and social participation remain minimal. The HIV/AIDS pandemic adds another facet to the complexity of rural productivity.

Though Millennium Development Goal 3 (MDG) directly addresses women’s empowerment, it is important to understand that gender equality must become an integral element of every MDG. It also is important to consider that inadequate rural infrastructure hampers not only productivity in agriculture and rural economy but also increases rural women’s hardship in their access to agriculture markets and services.

From another perspective, the inadequate service infrastructure for health care and water and sanitation impedes women’s care-giving activities on the domestic front. Hence, investment in rural infrastructure could be an investment in rural women’s welfare. Beyond this investment, there is need for other investments for ensuring advancement of rural women and overcoming the barriers. First, improve rural women’s awareness and understanding of their rights to demand access to resources and services. Second, improve their education and capacity to work with public sector and other service providers to expand their economic options in local communities. Third, improve the learning among both men and women who hold traditional views on women’s roles and rights to change their perception and action to accept new realities of gender equality. Fourth, accept the reality that rural women are the key to agriculture and rural development, and thus explore with rural women local options for improving their production and living skills to achieve stable food security and livelihood. Fifth, move beyond analysis about women to communication with rural women for generating policies and programmes that directly benefit rural women. It is important that policies for agriculture and rural development and policies for advancement of rural women should intersect to achieve an integrated approach for advancement of rural women. The experts should develop strategies to bridge the technical collaboration divide that undermines the advancement of rural women.

Closing session presentations

Consultation vice-chairperson

The vice-chairperson Ms Sheepa Hafiza made a statement of thanks on behalf of the participants of the Regional Consultation on Policies and Programmes for Advancement of Rural Women in the Beijing Plus 10 Era: Innovations and Constraints, naming the organisers of the meeting from FAO and Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. She recorded participants’ appreciation for sharing the regional experience and the opportunity to generate recommendations. She thanked the participants for their sincere and productive participation. Her statement ended with a promise of looking ahead and working harder to bring about changes in the lives of Asian rural women.

NAFRI-MAF representative

On behalf of the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute and as a member of the secretariat organising the meeting, Ms Monthathip extended her congratulations to the delegations from all countries for their participation in this very useful Regional Expert Consultation for Rural Women. She affirmed that the group could make use of information and build skills in the future. She recorded her heartfelt thanks to FAO for giving the Lao People’s Democratic Republic the honour to be the venue of this important meeting. On behalf of the Ministry, she thanked the FAO officers from the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, and the FAO Office in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

FAO officers

FAO officers from the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and Lao People’s Democratic Republic representation made statements of thanks. Ms Leena Kirjavainen, FAO Representative, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, recorded her thanks to the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and its cabinet and the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute for the organisational support for the meeting and for excellent arrangements and hospitality. She also thanked her staff in the representation for their support to this activity. She acknowledged the valuable contribution made by invited experts, resource persons, panellists and observers. Her closing remarks emphasised that the ultimate goal and mission of the consultation were to promote "gender equality and empowerment of women" and to ensure that the cause of rural women would not be dropped from the agenda of the Beijing Plus 10 review in 2005.

Ms Revathi Balakrishnan from the FAO regional office recorded her sincere thanks to every member of the group for their commitment of time and efforts to attend and for their productive participation. She acknowledged with thanks the excellent cooperation given by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the staff of the National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute. The support given by FAO representation for the meeting was recorded with thanks.

Country papers

The summaries of country presentations are included in the order of presentation. Lao People’s Democratic Republic papers will include summaries of presentation by the panel.


Sheepa Hafiza

Women worldwide are discriminated against, but in Bangladesh, it is institutionalised in patriarchal ideologies, repressive laws, age old customs and misinterpreted religious practices. Discriminatory manifestations are seen in gradual trends toward the feminisation of poverty, the high rate of female mortality and increased violence toward women. Despite these impediments, women of the country made considerable progress in the every day life of Bangladesh. Government agencies, NGOs, women and community organisations substantially support the efforts of poor and disadvantaged people of Bangladesh. Support from many international agencies is a key for progressive development of Bangladesh.

The government undertook several noteworthy efforts toward integrating the women’s agenda into the broader policy and plan framework. It drew critical analyses on different interventions. The NGOs and women’s organisations have emerged as integral partners and have vastly widened their activities in social and economic empowerment of the poor, especially rural women. Advancement of rural women continues to be in the government’s development agenda; new programmes are being developed by several international agencies, NGOs. A few examples described how access to political decision-making and food security strengthens the livelihood, social capital and hunger less world for rural women, which in turn improves their access to household and local decision-making processes. The paper highlighted key constraints confronting rural women. One such constraint to women’s empowerment is the near absence of women representatives in the National Parliament. The paper described how progressive policies and programmes should consider rural women’s existing situation. It presents recommendations for more rapid improvement of rural women’s situation. Bangladesh is rich in policy and programming; now the imperative need is to walk the talk.


Keth Sam Ath
Ministry of Women’s Affair

Cambodian women constitute 54 percent of the skilled agriculture and fishery workers, 66.8 percent of the labour force in manufacturing and 74.5 percent of the primary labour force in wholesale and retail trade. Much of this employment, however, is in the informal sector. Rural women are responsible for 60-80 percent of domestic food production. The primary policies focusing on agriculture and rural development are the National Poverty Reduction Strategy and the Social Economic Development Plan. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries implements various projects that address integration of rural women. The Asian Development Bank has collaborated with the Ministry of Women’s and Veterans’ Affairs in developing a gender mainstreaming strategy in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Rural Development, have specific targets for including women. The focal ministry for the advancement of women has defined specific strategies to work with other ministries in gender mainstreaming and developing gender specific statistics. Recently a gender budgeting project has been initiated.

Constraints on improving rural women’s situation are multifaceted and complex. Cambodia’s population is dependent primarily on agriculture in rural areas and these agriculture dependent people are poor. About 85 percent of the population lives and works in rural areas and 83 percent of the rural population are female. Women’s only resource is their own labour and there is high illiteracy among them. The culture exhibits a strong bias favouring men. Women work very hard in the farm and home. Most rural girls work in garment factories and may face problems when the trade rules change. The country’s current issues are increasing landlessness and near landlessness and decreasing access to common property resources. Under these circumstances, rural households remain without any productive resources. Research and information on rural women are inadequate since statistics are not generally sex-disaggregated and gender analysis is weak. The National Institute of Statistics plans to include time use data in the socio-economic survey. Gender-responsive indicators for Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals have been developed.


Wang Wanying
Yunnan Institute of Geography of Yunnan University

This paper reviews poverty in China’s transitional context. In China, gender equality is a national policy goal. There has been a strong discourse on gender equality since Mao’s era when men and women were proclaimed equal. This declaration contributed conceptually to challenge the old gender roles specifying, "women are the annex of men". In general, policies do not present obvious gender discrimination. On the other hand, however, the traditional male-dominated gender order persists in practice and manifests itself in the allocation of assets, power, rights, status and opportunities. Gender mainstreaming is increasingly becoming important for women’s advancement. This paper analyses the policy implications of two continuing participatory technology development and dissemination activities that are relevant to gender issues in local agriculture technology systems. The paper also summarises the value added to the research by "social analysis and gender analysis" (SAGA). The value of SAGA is suggestions for gender mainstreaming of local technology development and dissemination systems that empower women’s advancement.


Nandini Prasad
International Centre for Research on Women

This paper broadly examines the government’s policy defined in India’s Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007), and analyses gaps between the policy’s intent and the government’s positive action. According to that plan, the last decade of the Twentieth Century saw a visible shift in development planning from the mere expansion of the production of goods and services and the consequent growth of per capita income, to planning for the enhancement of human well being. In addition to social development measures in terms of access to social services, the Plan aims to provide an equitable development process for expanding opportunities for advancement to all sectors of the population. To an extent, this has resulted in a few positive indicators. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth has risen from an average of about 5.7 percent in the 1980s to about 6.1 percent during the 1990s, making India one of the ten fastest growing countries in the world. Other dimensions also show encouraging progress. Population growth has decelerated below two percent for the first time in four decades. Literacy has increased from 52 percent in 1991 to 65 percent in 2001 and the improvements are evident in all states.

Several aspects of development, however, show clearly disappointing progress. These aspects are the high incidence of poverty and the low indicators of access to the basic needs of health, education, housing, sanitation, food and nutritional security by millions of people. Furthermore, persistent high violence and lack of information and opportunities for the majority of women contribute to low indicators of women’s advancement. Strong measures are required to reverse these adverse development trends. The paper states that India has the pre-requisites and potential to become a self-sufficient country that ensures food and nutritional security to its millions of rural poor. The glaring gap between plenty and paucity exists because of the lack of political will to re-evaluate development policies in all sectors. A policy evaluation process should address the omission of micro realities in general and change the social constraints that hinder women’s empowerment and advancement in particular.

The paper identifies the government’s Mahila Samakhya Programme as a ray of hope for rural women’s advancement. Rural women’s collectives fostered by the programme successfully address a broad range of issues, including women’s health, violence against women, child labour, girl child rights, regeneration of forests, women’s access and control of natural resources, sustainable agricultural practices, minimum and equal wages and land rights. Rural women who participated in the programme have emerged as highly confident, informed and articulate women who have transformed structures and systems that formerly subordinated them and perpetuated gender inequality. By coming together to critically analyse, question, challenge and change unjust practices, women participants have gained confidence and moved into new roles and spaces. Efforts should be made to encourage the synergy of development programmes with a holistic perspective. Such an approach can bring positive changes. The national policy formulation process should consider women’s realities and priorities and should set in motion processes for empowerment of women.


Siti Sugiah Machfud Mugniesyah
Bogor Agricultural University

The government of Indonesia (GOI) issued a series of laws to support gender mainstreaming. A few examples are the law for regional autonomy and the presidential instruction for gender mainstreaming within the framework of the national development programme. In line with the government’s commitment, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and other ministries related to rural women’s empowerment in poverty alleviation and food security programmes have undertaken countless efforts. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) especially integrated the participatory rural appraisal and gender perspective approaches with various projects aimed to improve the situation of poor people in rural areas. Based on those projects’ experiences, especially Income Generating Project for Marginal Farmers and Landless (P4K) and Decentralised Agriculture and Forestry Extension Project (DAFEP), it was found that the projects successfully met the practical and strategic gender needs especially at the grass root levels. As these projects focused on income generating activities and improving women farmer group dynamics, it would be useful to explore farming system productivity and the influence of project interventions and agricultural extension input to achieve group sustainability. A major constraint is lack of sex-disaggregated data needed to support the gender mainstreaming in agriculture. Hence, it is important to increase the synergy among all working units and the focal points within the MOA and other institutions. On the other hand, to sustain the rural women’s empowerment achieved by the MOA, province and district governments should take responsibility to continue integrating gender mainstreaming into their programmes by implementing Gender Analysis Pathway (GAP), Policy Outlook for Plan of Action (POP) and budget support. In addition, the efforts to empower women studies centres in universities will help accelerate the process to achieve gender equality and equity in agricultural development mandated by presidential instruction.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women (Lao-NCAW): Rural women’s agenda

Chansoda Phonethip
Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women

Ten years after Beijing, the advancement of Lao women of all ethnicities and socio-economic strata has developed in many areas, namely politics, socio-economics, culture and family. This paper focused entirely on a newly established state organisation called Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women (Lao-NCAW). The paper introduces Lao-NCAW’s roles, functions, rights and obligations, and the activities undertaken since its establishment. The Lao-NCAW’s secretariat was established in early 2004 to achieve the empowerment of women, in particular rural women. The paper also compared the functions and activities of the Lao-NCAW and the existing women’s organisation, Lao Women’s Union (LWU).

Gender statistics to support policies and programmes for Lao rural women

Thirakha Chanthalanouvong
National Statistics Centre

Prior to the 1990s, most statistical information in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic presented total numbers, not numbers disaggregated by sex. Information available on women improved in the late 1990s as gender issues and strategies to address gender inequality were gradually recognised. This paper reviews sex disaggregated data and summaries of gender data analysis that were prepared by the National Statistical Centre (NSC) of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The paper provides an overview of the role and activities of NSC in producing official gender statistics. It presents a brief country profile as background information including social demography, the economy and poverty. The paper includes selected gender statistics drawn from various sources available through national statistical data collection including the population census, surveys and the 2003 mid-year population count. It makes a case for sex-disaggregated statistics and gender analysis to strengthen the information base and to support gender responsive policies. Additionally, it calls for improved cooperation between users and producers of statistics to meet the needs of all general users.

Policies and programmes for advancement of Lao rural women in the Beijing Plus 10 Era: Country review

Monthathip Chanphengxay
National Agriculture and Forestry Research Institute

The constitution of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic emphasises social justice for all citizens without discrimination based on age, sex or ethnicity. The government’s policies ensure a state of equality, a decisive and fundamental factor for promoting the status of women. Such a policy allows women access to resources for nation building, and provides equal opportunities to enjoy the fruits of economic growth and access to health and educational services.

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic government has ratified various United Nations conventions on human rights. The government also has agreed to implement the Platform for Action arising from the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women (1995) and the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (1994). To implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the government agreed to develop a National Gender Action Plan and established the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women (Lao-NCAW) in 2003. Reflecting the national strategic plan for the advancement of Lao women, the Commission for Advancement of Women of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) has produced policies and programmes for the agriculture and forestry sector. The MAF plan aims to provide employment to women in urban and rural areas and to increase family income thereby contributing to poverty alleviation by improving living conditions of women and the general population inclusive of all ethnic groups. Lao-NCAW fosters implementation of programmes to ensure women’s employment, to increase their income and their participation in poverty alleviation interventions, to raise their standard of living, and to encourage women to produce market commodities.

Gender mainstreaming in the forestry sector

Sisomphet Souvanthalisith
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry

Gender mainstreaming in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic Department of Forestry (DoF) requires considerable investment in human resource development as well as a system of tasks, integrated processes and methodology for gender responsive development. The process starts with awareness raising and defining a common understanding of the gender concept. The government strategy includes gender mainstreaming in all technical sectors including forest sectors.

This strategy to institutionalise gender mainstreaming also entails dissemination of a system of tasks and development of methods that define the roles and responsibilities for gender work within the DoF and forest sectors at all level. It also must promote concrete ideas about key gender issues and identify specific actions that will result from socio-economic and gender analysis. Such a pragmatic process is needed since the programme and DoF staffs have difficulty transforming gender awareness into concrete action.

Although social and economic roles of women and men are complementary and intertwined, a lack of gender awareness can lead to policies and strategies that consider only men’s needs and interests. A gender mainstreaming approach attempts to carry out baseline research using gender differentiated statistics and to increase gender integration in decision-making relevant to sustainable forest management resources. The outcome will improve the livelihood of people in remote areas. At the same time, fulfilment of these objectives requires specific actions to sensitise foresters at all levels as well as the staff across the organisation. The existing DoF gender-mainstreaming situation requires improvement. Gender-mainstreaming in the forestry sector is a challenge since foresters and their families are not familiar with the concept of gender equality. Gender bias has been the common practice generation after generation thus resulting in stereotyping of woman’s tasks and position in society.

Rural women’s access and rights to natural resources

Kesone Sayasane

Most people in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic are subsistence farmers in rural areas who supplement their crops with fish that they catch and food and other materials that they gather from forests and wetlands. As fish and other aquatic animals are the source of 70-90 percent of animal protein in the diet, fisheries contribute most significantly to the country’s food security. Fisheries also provide much needed cash income. Not surprisingly, women play a significant role in the sector. Women’s roles in fisheries were always important in such activities as fish processing and fish trading, while fishing was considered to be ‘male-dominated’. It now is evident that women play a similarly important role in fish production, both in aquaculture and capture fisheries. Access to fish and fishing areas and respective rights are thus crucial for women’s utilisation of aquatic resources. However, access means more than physical access to aquatic resources; it includes access to important conditions for resource use and management such as capital, technology, knowledge and decision-making authority. The Lao state considers natural resources as national common property that is available for use by all Lao people without discrimination. Consequently, policies and legislation increasingly promote women’s involvement in natural resource use and management. For example, the decentralisation policy emphasises the importance of community and thus women’s rights to the property of natural resources including access, withdrawal and management.

This presentation builds on work by local management committees comprising women and men. It concludes that women’s role in management of aquatic and other resources is more important than hitherto thought because women have access to aquatic resources as well as resources essential to their effective use. Yet, some factors still impede women’s full access to natural resources. The constraints include increased demands on women’s time and labour, unequal access to information and knowledge, the existence of unsatisfactory fish marketing arrangements and the lack of skills and resources to manage local institutions. Nevertheless, women’s emerging participation in management decision-making increases production and contributes to women’s improved self-confidence and feeling of citizenship.


Indu Pant Ghimire
Mainstreaming Gender Equity Programme

Nepal is a rural, agrarian country in South Asia. Women constitute more than 43 percent of the labour force, of which 73 percent are in agriculture and 27 percent in non-agriculture sectors. Generally, women earn about 80 percent of what men earn in agriculture and 75 percent in non-agriculture labour, mainly in daily wage work. Rural women work more than 12 hours a day, and they work 47 percent more than men do. The major constraints on women’s advancement are patriarchy, urban bias, non-participation of rural women and armed insurgency. Set in such a context, this paper reviews the national policies and programmes for advancement of rural women in the Beijing Plus 10 Era in Nepal. It analyses policy initiatives, programmes and field level activities undertaken by development partners and the positive impact resulting from such interventions in agriculture, natural resource management and poverty alleviation.

This paper explores interventions by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, non-governmental organisations and international donors for the advancement of rural women and concludes with recommended strategies. Government initiatives fall into the following categories: micro-credit services, opportunities in agriculture, access to natural resource management, political participation and capacity in developing‚ planning and widening the range of social services. The government’s initiatives have not yielded the expected results due to lack of appropriate implementation plans, trained human resources and adequate budget. Other major limitations are the lack of effective partnership, collaboration and coordination together with minimum dialogue, knowledge and experience sharing exercise. Thus, Nepal needs comprehensive plans, policies and programmes for rural women to overcome the poverty trap and gender discrimination that continue to direct their lives. The prerequisite for the implementation of any policies, plans or programmes is restoration of peace by ending the violent conflict raging in the country.


Tahira Abdullah
Socio-Economic Development Practitioner

This paper presents the situation of rural women in the largely agrarian economy and society of Pakistan in the context of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action’s 12 critical areas of concern. It also considers the relevant articles of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which Pakistan ratified with a reservation and declaration, and the post-Beijing National Plan of Action (NPA) and its implementation matrix. It seeks to link the NPA with the subsequently formulated macro-level national policies, plans and programmes and examines their constraints.

Sustainable livelihood and household food security emerge as crucial factors that affect rural women. A brief discussion of the vital productive role of rural women in agriculture, their economic deprivation and their official "invisibility" therein, identifies gaps in provision of information and services to them. Women’s combined burden of work and responsibilities, especially in the rural areas, emerges as a major concern. The paper examines a few government and civil society programmes or initiatives along with their achievements and gaps. It includes a brief review of issues pertaining to research and data on rural women with a view to informing policy-making, planning and legislation.

The conclusion defines a set of recommendations that address the issues and gaps identified in the paper. These recommendations address specific actors who are major stakeholders in the development process. The identified actors are the government for planning, budget-making and legislative entities; rural and agrarian sections of the population (women and men); civil society entities including NGOs; researchers and academicians; education and information dissemination organisations and the private and for-profit sector.


Lorenza A. Umali
National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW)

A decade after passage of the gender and development (GAD) budget policy, a question lingers. Does the policy contribute to realisation of the gender equality agenda of the Philippines? From the perspective of the oversight body mandated to monitor the implementation of the GAD budget policy, the policy has served and continues to serve as a key element in implementing gender mainstreaming. The Philippine government adopted it as the main strategy for ensuring that all government instrumentalities implement its gender equality agenda.

This paper presents stakeholders’ experiences and insights in implementing the GAD budget policy. It highlights facilitating and hindering factors that, respectively, pushed effective implementation of the policy or deterred the achievement of its objective. It describes how the GAD budget was utilised by the national government offices and local government units.

As in other pioneering efforts, adoption of the Philippine GAD budget policy resulted from a confluence of several factors: favourable policy environment, high-level championship and strong involvement of critical agencies. It was helpful to have favourable laws and policies that provided a clear mandate and a measurable target as well as detailed guidelines that answered all possible questions. One lesson learned is the need for determined and consistent advocacy and consciousness-raising to prioritise gender concerns. Technical competence and assistance is important, as is thorough understanding of fiscal planning and the budget cycles of national and local governments. It also is necessary to have a monitoring system that oversees compliance and identifies trends and problems as well as the long-term impact of the interventions on women. Official development assistance (ODA) funding is a welcome help for GAD mainstreaming. The following issues need immediately attention: strengthening and expanding partnerships between government and non-government organisations in implementing the policy; greater involvement of civil society; strengthening roles of the oversight agencies; institutionalising the collection, processing and reporting of sex-disaggregated data; training on budget literacy and defining accountability. The paper concludes with discussion of future actions that the national machinery intends to implement to ensure institutionalisation of the policy at the national and local levels.

The general concurrence is that the GAD budget policy serves as a potent vehicle for promoting women’s empowerment and eventual national development. Mainstreaming the policy, however, requires extra effort because the national budgeting process is far from perfect and government budgeting is shifting to performance-based orientation. The urgency is to ensure that the GAD budget policy survives the current austerity measures amid the raging financial crisis.

Sri Lanka

Swarna Jayaweera
Centre for Women’s Research Sri Lanka

This paper looks from a gender perspective at policies and programmes for the advancement of rural women in Sri Lanka. It reviews the policies and programmes in the context of the overall situation of rural women and the agencies and institutions responsible for formulating and implementing programmes. The paper notes that policies and programmes have had a disproportionately adverse impact on rural women. Literature reveals the low priority and conflicting trends in agricultural policy and the emergence of new forms of employment for rural women outside the agriculture sector. The catalysts of rural change have been education opportunities, health services, land distribution and social mobilisation. Constraints are macro economic policies that have failed to ‘trickle benefits down’ and have increased hardship, a sluggish agriculture-related sector, unviable self-employment programmes, continuing incidence of poverty, inadequate legal protection for most rural workers and the social construction of gender that impedes women’s path to empowerment. Policy interventions, therefore, must address these constraints to work towards a vibrant rural sector, productive agriculture as its main source of livelihood, increased family resources, gender equality and holistic human development.


Pawadee Tonguthai
Thammasat University

Thai women in rural areas face choices, opportunities and vulnerabilities different from those they faced ten years ago when the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was formulated. In the past decade, Thailand has experienced several economic and political adjustments that have affected the status of women. Two major events, the economic crisis and the promulgation of the new constitution, occurred just two years after Beijing.

This review describes many policies, strategies and measures that influence the rural women’s advancement, particularly those targeting poverty alleviation and livelihood development. Although gender issues may not have been explicitly included in the formulation of policies and strategies to strengthen the grassroots economy, they have achieved positive outcomes paving the way for rural women’s economic empowerment in the end.

Invited resource papers

Gender and energy in Southeast Asia

Rachel V. Polesctico

This paper surveys the energy situation in Southeast Asia, presenting the different energy profiles of countries in the region and most significantly the lopsided energy policies favouring urban areas. The predominantly non-commercial energy forms used for domestic and agricultural activities in rural areas exacted a labour burden and endangered the health of rural women. While biomass remains the most available form of energy for rural women, increasing deforestation and a drive for more economic gains among countries in Southeast Asia will potentially deprive rural women of the resource needed to support their activities. Fortunately, voices in the region raise awareness of this situation and initiate certain policy recommendations. These recommendations include attending to women’s concerns, integrating energy policies in the Beijing Plus 10 Plan of Action, building women’s and girls’ capacity to address technology and energy issues, supporting local decision-making to safeguard local resources, continuing research and development and engaging financial institutions to support energy and technology programmes in the rural areas. The paper’s conclusion calls for redress and a halt to trends toward energy deprivation. A case study, entitled "Three Sisters", illustrates the possibility of policy reform and action that addresses women’s energy needs and those of the most vulnerable sectors of society.

Beijing Plus 10 review: How visible are rural women, and how to make them visible?

Koh Miyaoi

A review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted in 1995 and the outcome document of the Twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly (Beijing Plus 5) in 2000 is mandated in the multi-year programme of work of the Commission on the Status of Women for its forty-ninth session in March 2005. The preparatory process for the review and appraisal requested governments to respond to a questionnaire outlining the achievements and gaps as well as policy and programme measures. The issues of rural women were not among the most highlighted subjects in the responses from governments, but governments incorporated several pertinent issues such as agriculture, natural resource management, food security, poverty alleviation and the impact of globalisation. What strongly emerged from these responses was the continuing gap between de jure and de facto equality between women and men. While policy, legal and legislative frameworks have been established to promote gender equality, protect women’s human rights and guarantee equality between men and women in many countries of the UNESCAP region, a number of obstacles still hinder advancement and women’s empowerment, thus hampering the advancement of gender equality. Recognising the gaps in the implementation of commitments made in the Beijing processes, the paper proposes several key recommendations: (1) developing awareness and capacity building for gender equality in rural areas; (2) improving women’s livelihood and work and (3) promoting gender mainstreaming in rural development.

Policy for gender responsive technology: Thailand scenario

Kanjapat Korsieporn
Chulalongkorn University

The paper relies heavily on the UNDP-FAO Project entitled "Gender Responsive Technology Framework for Poverty Alleviation". The research comprises two parts: field research in six villages and desk review of policies of government agencies relevant to rural development and technology development. The government agencies reviewed were the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MOSLW), Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Interior (MOI), Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MOAC) and the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC).

The policy review indicates gender blindness at all levels of societal strata. High-ranking decision makers are mostly male and are not interested in women’s empowerment. Policy recommendations presented to relevant ministries had some, but not sufficient, positive effects. NGOs concerned with women’s status in various aspects have advocated gender equity and women’s rights. The stipulation in the 1997 Constitution that unequal treatment based on sex is against the Constitution definitely makes positive policy implications for gender responsive technology.

Thailand made commitments to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The accomplishments of efforts concerning women and development reviewed are not very impressive. However, the "One Tambon One Product" Project had unplanned positive impacts on rural women individually and on women’s cooperatives.

Several factors constrain implementation and prevent a national impact of policy, programmes and legislation. They have their root causes in the patriarchy system and will be overcome only in the long term. Until that time, women must be united and continue creating and expanding networks for solidarity and information sharing. One way is to share research projects carried out in our respective countries. The paper provides a list of such projects completed in 2004.

Presentation by Invited Development Agency Panel

A stakeholder panel represented by members from various development agencies based in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic was invited to present their respective work in country.

Desiree Jongsma
UNICEF, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The presenters in the consultation stressed in particular the importance of CEDAW. Furthermore, while reviewing inclusion of the gender dimension in agricultural and rural development policies, strategies and programmes, the consultation reiterated the lack of political will and the need to move from commitment to action. It also highlighted the need for investment in social services to ensure protection of women from social evils such as violence, abuse, exploitation and discrimination. These are important issues; though data also are important, it is a difficult task to collect them. The consultation highlights the critical importance of a holistic perspective merged with other sectors. These sectors were education, health and HIV/AIDS. In this context, as in many others, expanded partnerships will be critical. It is important to focus on the early years of human development to recognise that gender discrimination and socialisation start very early in life and denial of rights based on sex during the early childhood years affects individuals over their whole lifecycle.

Kathryn Sweet
Family Planning Australia: Rural Women’s Project

Family Planning Australia has worked in partnership with Lao Women’s Union since 1998 to implement the project in two provinces of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The Rural Women’s Project works mainly at the grass-root level with local communities representing various ethnic groups such as Lao, Tai Deng, Tai Dam, Khmou and Hmong. Objectives of the project are to improve local capacity to manage community development initiatives, improve the reproductive and general health of rural women and their families and improve economic opportunities for rural women and their families. The project’s main activities strengthen the community networks through Women’s Community Development Groups and delivering information about reproductive health issues to village women, men and young people. The best results happen when both women and men are involved, the clients understand that women’s development benefits the whole community and the training and information sessions are short, simple and practical.

Inthasone Phersiriseng
International Labour Organization, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

ILO implemented a Mekong sub-regional project to combat trafficking in children and women in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The project covers three provinces and promotes tools to combat the worst forms of child labour and the trafficking of women and children. The project emphasises awareness building, capacity building and direct assistance. The capacity-building dimension focuses on institution building that targets government bodies and local authorities. Institutional networking includes labour, planning, police, education, agriculture, community organisations and training. The project incorporates various multimedia and traditional communication modalities to create awareness. Training intervention enhances vocational and rural skills. The project has achieved many positive learning outcomes.

Annika Kaipola
FAO, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action contains little mention of rural women and poverty even though poverty is particularly acute for women living in rural households. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic government’s primary policy document, "National Growth and Poverty Eradication Strategy", was approved in April 2004. In this document, gender equity is considered an inter-sector priority, but gender issues are not fully mainstreamed in various parts of the strategy framework. Instead, gender is seen as a separate theme that is addressed in "Gender Strategy for Poverty Reduction". Some line ministries in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic already have started to mainstream gender concerns by establishing high level gender working groups and providing gender training and capacity-building to staff. As part of its activities, FAO provides technical assistance to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic government to achieve poverty reduction and enhance gender equality in the rural areas by integrating gender concerns in the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) and FAO’s technical cooperation programmes in the areas of food and nutrition, natural resource management and agricultural support systems.

Secretariat Technical Papers: FAO/UN

Current challenges affecting the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

Leena Kirjavainen
FAO, Lao People’s Democratic Republic

The Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995 unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as defining a global blueprint for women’s development. The Platform for Action defines 12 critical areas of priority actions to achieve the advancement and empowerment of women. The critical areas of concern are the following:

The paper reviewed the following challenges for implementing the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: globalisation; economic disparities; debt burden and science and technology migration; partnerships between government and civil society; an aging population; the HIV/AIDS pandemic; drug and substance abuse; increase in natural disasters; an imbalance in paid and unpaid work and the Asian economic crisis. Since 1995 two trends specific to Asia are the Asian economic crisis and the increased livestock epidemics.

Responses to these challenges should include:

FAO, through gender plans of action, promotes gender integration in all aspects of the organisation’s work and monitors integration of gender considerations in project formulation and implementation.

Rural women and poverty alleviation: New investment

Revathi Balakrishnan
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

In the Asian region, extreme social and economic inequities persist among and within countries, and uneven distribution of resources has perpetuated rural-urban disparities in spite of economic growth. Poverty in Asia remains overwhelmingly a rural problem. Rural disparity affects rural women adversely. The gender dimension of poverty is evident in the unequal burden borne by women in managing consumption under the conditions of scarcity. Gender specific data, though uneven and difficult to collect, indicates that more women than men are poor. It is essential to analyse how the multidimensional determinants of poverty affect rural and urban groups and rural women and men at community, household and individual levels.

It is important to identify the barriers for investment in rural women that will alleviate their poverty. Persisting invisibility of rural women’s contribution impedes advocacy for rural women. Though various efforts have been in progress to quantify unpaid work, these efforts have not been mainstreamed in economic thinking that drives the national planning process and agricultural sector polices in the region. Existing urban-biased measures such as the Gender Empowerment Measure fail to capture rural gender inequality. The processes of planning and implementing National Plans of Action for Women and national policies for agriculture and rural development have limited interaction. Gender mainstreaming or the women in development argument needs to be re-evaluated to serve rural women adequately. More often than not, the emphasis on gender mainstreaming approach leads to gender analysis and gender training processes that have not achieved consistent commitment to the advancement of women particularly rural women in the Asian region. Women in development paradigm may present a positive discrimination approach to counter the prevailing barriers that limit rural women’s access to resources and opportunities for advancement.

It is crucial that rural women’s monetary contribution to national capital flow, beyond activity analysis, should be measured through their participation in rural finance programmes. It is important to reinvent HDI, GDI and GEM indicators to capture rural gender inequality at rural community level to assess the national level advancement of rural women. Rural women need a human resource focus to enable them to take advantage of technology and competitive market opportunities. Recognising that traditional approaches have yet to fulfil the objective of rural women’s advancement, innovative thinking and forward looking strategies are needed to support new investment in rural women in the post Beijing Plus 10 Era.

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