Persisting rural gender disparity and regional recommendations
The consultation on consensus presented the following as outcomes of the meeting.
Regional meeting declaration
The gains posted after a decade of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPA) implementation are extremely fragile. This recognises the fact that any advancement that has occurred continues to be enjoyed by only a few, with rural women getting the least share of benefits.
This regional consultation affirms that the continuing neglect of rural women is detrimental to any development endeavour. It maintains that rural poverty and feminisation of poverty are imposing heavy burdens on rural women.
We, the participants, therefore assert that the fulfilment of the BDPA conditions by signatory governments will genuinely happen only with the integration of rural women in the monitoring and enforcement of BDPA agreements. We firmly believe that this is a primordial concern every country in the region should commit to, for the purpose of alleviating rural poverty and hunger and ensuring regional food security.
Regional recommendations: Group 1
Agencies implementing the BDPA need measurements of impacts. Although indicators have been formulated, these have not been disseminated.
Make government accountable through existing regional bodies for BDPA monitoring.
Invisibility of rural women in national statistics
Support should be provided for sex-disaggregating data in national surveys in all sectors, e.g., household income and expenditure survey, agricultural census, labour force survey.
Invisibility of rural women in policy and programmes
Technical assistance should be provided to governments to enable them to use sex-differentiated data for policy and programme formulation, gender budgeting, gender analysis, monitoring and evaluation and gender audit of policies and programmes.
Limited access of rural women to linkage and networks, communication and information
Create or link rural women with regional platforms to reflect and identify common concerns, to share experiences, exchange information and build self-confidence for concerted action.
Limited access of rural women to
Resources and budget
Energy and technology
Information and communication
Promote regional inter-agency collaboration to support innovative programmes focused on rural women and their realities and priorities. The programmes should be guided by non-negotiable principles such as gender equality, sustainability and linkages for technical, financial and other resources.
Lack of priority in addressing the strategic interest of rural women
Provide information on best practices in addressing the strategic interest of rural women through
- Empowerment of women
- Equal partnership of women and men in all levels
- Addressing the social construction of gender
Rural womens subsistence agricultural practice, livelihood and food security is threatened
National and regional macro policies should ensure food and nutrition security and protect regional resource bases to make our region hunger-free.
Regional recommendations: Group 2
Macro-level policies do not capture the realities of rural women
Undertake regional gender reviews and audits of all international instruments related to women.
Address the lack of social safety nets and social security for rural women.
Inaccurate reflection of womens contribution in data collection system
Redefine data collection methodology and indicators (HDI, GDI, GEM) to capture rural womens contribution to the national economy; promote institutionalisation of sex-disaggregated data.
Conduct regional research on the impact on rural women of poverty reduction, food security, drought and hunger and globalisation.
Unequal access to assets and job opportunities
Conduct regional advocacy on allocation and disposition of public lands and regional lobbying for the safe passage of gender responsive laws regarding land allocation and dispositions.
Limited access to information, services and capacity building
Create regional mechanisms that will facilitate access to technology, information and services;
Adopt a regional policy on the allocation of resources to enhance the capacities of rural women in all fields of endeavours;
Advocate the need for recruitment and training of larger numbers of female agricultural workers in the public and NGO sectors;
Advocate the need for capacity building for representation of rural women at decision-making levels and senior positions in rural district administrations, institutions and local government bodies.
Prevalence of violence against women and patriarchal structures and systems
Activate existing regional organisations that are working to eliminate the prevalence of violence against women, the patriarchal system and structures and to make governments accountable;
Share documented cases on useful practices to eliminate violence against women;
Address situations of armed conflict where girls and women are the worst-affected;
Eliminate the exploitation of poverty-stricken rural girls and women through trafficking, prostitution and forced migration by education, vocational skills training, small and medium enterprise (SME) development and agro-based industrial employment opportunities.
Development is not possible without sincere efforts to ensure gender equality, as it is a long due urgency. Every agency that is involved in enforcement of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action should define a sector-specific action plan that includes specific gender equality monitoring indicators with accountability ensured and clarified. Special efforts should be made to ensure that all projects and initiatives include gender analysis before designing, during implementation and at evaluation phases; implementation should accordingly apply the gender analysis throughout the project.
The government should work toward withdrawing all remaining reservations on CEDAW; this should not be difficult to accomplish, as the issues on the reserved article already are a part of the constitution. Initially, such reservations were based on the understanding that it may go against the law of Islam. Given time, such a stand proved wrong, as many Islamic countries already have ratified Article 2.
Development cannot be achieved through isolated compartmentalised activities and discrete initiatives; thus, integrated concentrated efforts of all concerned GoB, NGO and other partners are very much needed. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound (SMART) progress indicators should be set for all partners concerned with a clear accountability system enforced. Women constitute a disproportionate share of the poor; of the estimated 1.3 billion people living in poverty, more than 70 percent are female. Any serious commitment to poverty alleviation must reflect this reality.
Regional actions through regional agencies should have close and visible contact with the national organisations and networks through which to achieve a close connection with the grassroots. Implementation of the national action plans should reflect this structure. A priority agenda for regional agencies could be sharing of best practices.
Violence against Women (VAW) is an issue of extreme concern for Bangladesh. The rise of violence against religion and countries around the world apparently intensifies VAW. A single countrys initiative cannot effectively address and reduce violence against women. Regional countries must come together and strengthen efforts against all forms of violence against women. Regional agencies have the potential to play a lead role in this area if they possess a true motive to eradicate violence from peoples life.
Sexual harassment is another area that is a major hindrance to womens advancement. No place is without it, be it organisations, household, educational institutions or public places. However, it is not extremely difficult to reduce it to a minimal level if willingness persists and right strategies are taken. The government can play a vital role by enforcing and administering laws to ensure justice and neutrality. NGOs can play effective roles in dissemination and consciousness-raising. Civil society can contribute by playing the role of watchdog. A harassment free work environment is every persons right.
Donors can put pressure on the government to enable women-friendly work environments in all offices and factories, especially in garment factories.
Regional countries can launch a competition to reduce the malnutrition of women and children and the best practices can be recognised with awards.
As Bangladesh has the regions lowest female representation (two percent) in Parliament, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) or other agencies must take special measures regionally to improve the scenario.
Set a specific target in the National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) to achieve 30-50 percent representation by women in the training of agricultural extension and related areas. Undertake monitoring of these targets.
Agricultural extension should target farm production workers, and market vendors should include gender-specific extension programmes that focus on women.
Decentralisation and Improving Local Governance should establish pilot agricultural cooperatives to promote stable food stocks and pricing by village development committees (VDC), and 45 percent of the members should be women.
Include specific women-inclusive targets in the National Poverty Reduction Strategy (NPRS) to ensure food security and to enhance food security for all, especially poor women and children.
Include specific targets to include women in outreach programmes, such as 50 percent of the beneficiaries in the Special Programme on Food Security, 40 percent of the farmers trained in the farmer field schools, and 50 percent of the farmers benefiting from the small livestock-raising programme.
Ensure that women have equal access to employment, such as targeting women to be 45 percent of the beneficiaries in employment generated from road construction in the road and transport development strategy.
Ensure equal access rights of women and veterans to economic resources and opportunities and their equitable participation in national decision-making, development planning and poverty reduction processes.
Create alternative livelihood opportunities and enhance the capacity of women entrepreneurs and workers. Increase womens access to land. Provide training programmes for micro and small-scale enterprises.
Organise farmers associations with women as 50 percent of the membership. Support mechanisms for women in trade unions and business.
Change the extension system from supply driven to demand driven to fit womens technology support needs.
Strengthen the farmer-inclusive system of Participatory Technology Development and Dissemination (PTDD) by including information on laws governing production and marketing of seeds and seedlings, regulations and support programmes.
Empower women by promoting strategies that provide women with greater opportunities to participate in and benefit from project management processes.
Address the reality of agriculture feminisation by supporting technical capacity building and technology transfer for women farmers that will address food security and livelihood concerns.
Mobilise women and men to advocate for full free education as a national poverty reduction strategy to benefit the poor, since poor girls benefit more from equal access to education resources in the long-term. The reasons to support such a strategy are to remove education expenditures as a burden on family cash income generation; to ensure womens capacity to access technology in the next generation and to empower women by addressing common issues of community development that facilitate building partnerships with men.
Commit resources to develop womens community leadership through training and to encourage women to organise for community development, including technology development and dissemination.
Formulate policies and programmes with consideration given to social constraints that limit womens access to resources and services.
Base development programmes for womens advancement on a holistic perspective that addresses not only their practical needs but also their strategic interests.
Review all programmes designed for rural womens advancement using the framework of womens empowerment rather than tokenism that projects women as mere numbers.
It is essential to recognise women as farmers including honouring their entitlement to family resources and lands; legislation should effectively ensure joint rights for women.
The tailor-made extension and technology services that always reach and cater to the men should be redesigned to serve the needs of women farmers.
Agricultural programmes should centre on womens knowledge and capacity and should be subsistence-based to ensure food security.
Inter-agency collaborations and commitments should support innovative initiatives that centre on women and their realities and priorities. Programme development processes should reflect the lessons learnt from the field level experience of technology transfer.
National and regional macro policies and agreements should include consideration of micro realities to avoid alienating and marginalising women.
Increase communication with the mainstream actors in the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the Ministry of Forestry (MF) and the Ministry of Fisheries to reinforce the importance of gender mainstreaming in agricultural development as an economic as well social issue.
Target the decision makers with examples of capacity building activities supported by evidence of efficient and effective project implementation and outcomes when rural women participate in every phase of the project or programme.
Encourage the Research and Development Institution in MOA to integrate the gender perspective in their research.
Facilitate womens access and control over resources needed to achieve household and community food security by strengthening the synergy of women farmer groups, community based institutions at the sub-district and district levels, agricultural and forestry extension institutions and local institutions.
Use sex-disaggregated data and holistic approaches and involve gender and development specialists to formulate agricultural, forestry and fishery development programmes.
Conduct studies on the impact of poverty alleviation projects on household and community food security and farming sustainability.
Incorporate where appropriate the experience of the Department of National Education in mainstreaming gender by using the Gender Analysis Pathway (GAP) and Policy Outlook for Plan of Action (POP) strategy in formulating policies of the MOA, MF and other ministries and departments.
Increase the opportunity for Women Studies Centres staff and members to participate in project activities through capability building initiatives. Support from regional agencies, to this end, will benefit efforts to promote gender equality and equity in agricultural development.
Lao Peoples Democratic Republic
Formulate development strategies and support the Lao National Commission for the Advancement of Women to promote better participation of women in socio-economic development.
Support the gender mainstreaming process to empower women by increasing their participation through capacity building and providing gender knowledge to policy-decision makers and development planners.
Ensure effective integrated rural development implementation of the Poverty Reduction Programme for the poor and the poorest with due sensitivity to ethnic culture and gender concerns and with sufficient budgetary provision.
Invest resources to develop and analyse a sex-disaggregated database that can guide policy and programme formulation. Social and economic data collected by the National Statistics Centre through the census and surveys since the 1990s should be analysed in detail.
Introduce the gender mainstreaming concept and processes to all statistical officers and users of data at national and local levels.
Build close collaboration among producers and users of data to facilitate cooperation and expertise to identify issues, design and prepare questionnaires, make tabulation plans and disseminate data.
Users should pay greater attention to understanding data in order to improve policy advocacy, policy analysis, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes.
Formulate agriculture sector policies and programmes that are aimed at increasing womens participation in economic development with due sensitivity to cultural identity of ethnic groups concerned.
Study the gender differentiated agriculture sector development issues with due sensitivity for the cultural identity of ethnic groups concerned.
Recognise that rural womens participation in technological development is based on their division of labour at the farm level and their decisions and systems of managing their resources.
Study in depth policies for promoting investments in agriculture and forestry, establish models for creative employment and income generation and develop family farm models that use the female workforce at different levels.
Combine the knowledge and skills of producers inclusive of women (indigenous knowledge) with those of professional scientists and technicians to create a complimentary and necessary partnership of farmers and experts.
Promote and encourage the creative of young, talented and capable scientists to meet national needs for development with due attention to increasing and consolidating the process of womens empowerment in the most efficient manner.
Upgrade the capacities, qualifications and technical expertise at all levels in the short and long term. The training should target rural women and the female staff in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
Organise two kinds of training activities to reach women farmers. One type would train men and women extension workers on the importance of including women in their extension activities. Such training should include skills development to identify the needs of women farmers and technology transfer strategies suitable for reaching women considering their educational level and their reproductive responsibilities. The second type of training of women farmers should be done at the community level based on participatory approaches and learning by doing.
Encourage the involvement of female scientists and promote research projects on issues of gender and equity as stated by the prime minister.
In technical research, address the gender dimension of womens roles in village production and life and the factors contributing to poverty as primary issues affecting family sustenance and nutrition and household food security.
Develop and promote labour saving technologies such as for seed management to enable females to sort out good quality seeds for planting. Women should participate in farmer-administered participatory breeding in the selection and improvement of germ plasm. More opportunities should be given to the education and training of young women at all levels.
Establish linkages between national entities and decentralised units of technical departments to improve implementation of national policies at the local level through concrete activities. Pay special attention to the important aspect of communication development and facilitation capacities at all levels, taking into account specifically such differences as gender, age and ethnicity.
Emphasise institutional aspects of resource utilisation, such as the granting of marketing concessions or similar resource access strategies, to realise the full benefits from natural resources for users, in particular women.
The increasing pressure on common-pool resources, such as non-timber forest products (NTFP) and fish, requires development of alternative income earning activities. In the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic context, such activities could include fish processing, breeding of fish and raising of fingerlings.
Support increased collaboration and coordination of activities between agencies involved in similar enterprises on national and regional levels through inter-agency working groups or networks concerned with specific issues. Encourage institutionalisation of inter-agency collaboration to reap benefits.
The Department of Forestry should disseminate gender-mainstreaming information and should integrate gender strategies in each sector to foster an enabled working environment.
Women should be promoted to provide gender balance in technical programmes in all sectors, including increased participation of women in technical workshops, study tours and other development activities.
The forestry sector should increase womens numbers in the department to provide greater responsibility in technical aspects.
All strategies and activities in forest sectors and forestry programmes should ensure adoption of gender concept and gender integration.
Gender mainstreaming information should be introduced widely to all forest statistical officers and users of information at local levels.
The Constitution of Nepal, 1990, guarantees equal rights to men and women irrespective of sex, caste, class or creed, however, it fails to recognise womens individual identity. Thus, women are deprived of the right to nationality, right to family life and right to choose residence. Therefore, the government should give high priority to amend all discriminatory laws and to mainstream gender and development (GAD) in the government and foster cooperation between the government and NGOs. The government should encourage gender-sensitive industry and employment planning, including equal opportunities for training in information and other fields and adopt gender-sensitive laws.
Undertake gender reviews and audits of all national and international instruments and their impact on rural women, and ensure a high level of compliance to international instruments with sectoral programmes and policies.
The gender performance assessments and evaluation should be recognised as an integral part of the Annual Economic Survey of the government.
Gender inequalities in the existing law that limit womens access to land, property and productive assets should be removed to ensure womens right to buy, hold and sell property and land equally with men at all levels and to ensure womens entitlement to the family lands and resettlements areas.
Assess the gender implications of economic policies relative to production, distribution and consumption in two crucial areas: employment, and training and education. Create mechanisms to ensure equal opportunities for women and men in formal and non-formal education and on-the-job training. Women also must be permitted to acquire non-traditional skills. Legal sanctions must be instituted to ease womens re-entry into the labour force after the childbearing and child-rearing period.
Introduce appropriate gainful employment and alternative livelihood opportunities to expand rural womens income opportunities. Replace individual home-based work with village development committee-based enterprises, organise womens producer and trader unions to improve their production and marketing capabilities and establish women farmers cooperatives to facilitate credit, improved farming information inputs as well as product marketing.
Focus empirical studies of rural women on the transfer of technologies to reduce their drudgery, increase productivity and income and reduce the time spent on household chores, thereby redressing policies to improve rural womens status and promote their agenda in national development.
Undercounting women and their socio-economic contributions misdiagnoses and neglects their needs and interests. Data concepts should be defined to identify appropriate development indicators that capture womens contributions in all sectors and that provide data useful for policy formulation, designing of programmes, policy research and advocacy.
Develop rural womens capabilities and skills so they can participate more fully in and share more of the benefits of development; open farmer organisations to women farmers membership and enable women to hold key positions.
A precondition to rural womens advancement in Nepal is inter-agency collaboration that will give women an agency and a voice in conflict resolution and peace building. Such inter-agency collaboration must integrate womens concerns and needs in the implementation and monitoring of comprehensive economic reforms in armed conflict areas.
Due to the on-going conflict, food security is a critical concern of rural women. The government of Nepal in collaboration with other agencies should bring a holistic programme of food security linked to empowerment of women in the overall rural development process.
Rural womens concerns that largely are omitted from macro-level policy, budgets and planning documents, should be incorporated in the Tenth Five Year Plan (2005-2010), the longer-term Perspective Plan, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, rural development programmes and in the world view of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MoFAL).
Count womens agricultural contribution in the GDP national accounts by redefining "work" and disaggregating womens agricultural work instead of defining it as "unpaid family helpers" or "non-formal sector workers".
Incorporate gender-responsive budgeting and programming in agriculture and rural development programmes.
Carry out land reforms and impose progressively scaled agricultural income tax, ensuring that peasant women benefit equally with men from the revenues; redistribute the available arable state land to landless peasants, ensuring that half the recipients are women or that women are joint owners and title deed holders with men within a household or family unit. In women-headed households, women need to have sole title deeds to state-distributed land and housing initiatives under various poverty-reduction and agricultural development programmes.
The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (MoFAL) needs to greatly increase the recruitment, professional skills training and placement of female extension workers in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry, in view of cultural constraints and gender-segregation of rural women.
Working in partnership with NGOs, the government should replicate successful experimental pilot initiatives of NGOs and expand them through the public and private sectors for women in agricultural development and poverty reduction.
Programme implementers should view livestock and poultry as an enterprise development activity for women rather than just as a traditional rural female task or routine household activity.
Sectoral line departments and project staff need to introduce economically viable and beneficial marketing strategies, such as farming cooperatives, for the collection and sale of milk, dairy products and agricultural outputs.
There is a need to utilise local government taxes and other taxes to provide rural women with viable investments, e.g., livestock and poultry farming, sericulture, horticulture, aquaculture or agro-based industries, instead of the traditional provision of "sewing machines" for "destitute women". This would create remunerated employment opportunities for women, and it would reduce male rural-urban migration that increases womens triple burden of unremunerated work and non-recognition of female-headed-households.
Encourage women peasants to form and join village groups, organizations, farmers and water users associations. Promote functional female literacy and basic numeracy.
Promote formalisation and unionisation of agricultural workers, both female and male, with all the accompanying social security benefits and the application of labour laws and ILO Conventions.
Promote womens entry into the formal sub-sector of forestry by providing credit and land for fuel wood, seedlings (nurseries), fruit orchards and horticulture; follow up by employing women in the relevant agro-industries for processing, preservation and packaging.
Train female mechanics in hand pumps, community tanks and other water sources; produce a cadre of expert female trainers who can train other women to operate and maintain rural water supply projects.
Ensure that there are cross-sectoral, horizontal institutional linkages and synergy among the various departments handling agriculture, livestock, forestry, rural development, environment, water supply, irrigation, energy, womens development, governance issues, labour and human resources and the sectoral line departments.
Researchers, academicians and NGOs need linkages with government departments dealing with globalisation to ensure that various international agreements pending or already in force do not negatively impact rural and agricultural women, or to ameliorate any negative consequences that might result, e.g., the cotton textile industry largely employs women as cotton pickers in the cotton belt of Pakistan.
The recently introduced phenomenon of corporate farming through trans-national corporations (TNCs), genetic engineering (GE) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have a noticeably negative impact on rural women. All sections of society - public, private, NGOs, academicians and activists - need to work together to address this increasing threat to our womens traditional, indigenous knowledge of seeds, farming practices, fertilisers, irrigation, livestock and dairy farming.
The Pakistan National Commission on the Status of Women (PNCSW) needs to focus on and work for rural womens empowerment and development.
An institutional mechanism is required to coordinate, monitor and evaluate various government, NGO and private sector initiatives with rural women.
The voices of the marginalised rural women should inform all policy-making and programme design in agriculture, rural development and poverty reduction initiatives.
The consultation proposes the following recommendations to transform gender and development (GAD) budgeting from its existing state into a mechanism that fully contributes to attainment of the gender equality agenda of the country:
Continuously update and provide comprehensive technical assistance to agencies on GAD budgeting.
Strengthen and expand partnerships between NGOs and GOs to influence sceptics to commit to GAD budgeting.
Strengthen roles of oversight agencies to ensure institutionalisation of GAD budgeting in national planning and budgeting.
Enlist support of the Commission on Audit and the Congress to ensure compliance to the policy.
Institutionalise the collection, processing and reporting of sex-disaggregated data to aid agencies in the internal review of their programmes and projects for gender responsiveness.
Include GAD in the key result areas of agencies to institutionalise GAD budget policy implementation; heads of agencies and local government units should present a GAD budget report for accountability.
Rationalise the GAD policy design to align it with evolving trends in mainstream planning and budgeting.
Involve civil society organisations, particularly womens organisations, in all stages of GAD budget policy formulation, implementation and monitoring.
Develop and disseminate a popular version of policy and guidelines; use tri-media for information dissemination.
Educate women in budget literacy for more effective advocacy.
The complex issues that have surfaced from this overview demand a multi-pronged approach to action.
National policy makers and others who formulate policies and programmes should
- not depend overly on national level macro data but should use local and household level data and the real experiences of women recorded in micro studies and
- avoid politicisation of policy changes.
Seek technical assistance for training programmes in gender sensitisation, collection of gender-disaggregated data, gender analysis and gender audits for policy makers and senior administrators in order to facilitate the mainstreaming of womens concerns in national policies and programmes.
Review policies and programmes introduced in the rural sector to eliminate bias against small producers and to consider the needs of all segments of the population.
Dynamic and viable policies need to be implemented in the agriculture related sector to make optimal use of natural resources, provide adequate incentives and technological inputs, access to information, skills, markets and support services to maximise the potential
- to ensure national and household food security and financial stability and
- to enable rural women to improve their status in the economy and society.
Revamp self-employment programmes in the rural environment to facilitate take-off of profitable enterprises by
- offering a composite package of services encompassing credit, technical and management skill training, technology to upgrade enterprises and market information and
- supporting the economic and social mobilisation of rural women.
Provide support for the use of information and communication technologies and rural telecentres to increase access to information and services such as those pertaining to agriculture, livestock, training, jobs, markets and health.
Conduct advocacy programmes by the national machinery for women and womens organisations to ensure
- amendment of the inheritance schedule in the Land Development Ordinance,
- ex tension of the provisions of the ILO convention on home-based workers to self-employed workers and
- effective implementation of laws and regulations pertaining, for example, to fundamental rights, labour legislation, compulsory education and the penal code.
Monitoring mechanisms should be inbuilt in all development programmes implemented in the rural sector to ensure that opportunities and resources are utilised optimally for the advancement of rural women in all socio-economic groups.
Create mechanisms to ensure donor responsiveness to the specific needs of rural women, integration of donor supported programmes in national policies and programmes and promotion of the interchange of regional information and research pertaining to rural women.
Encourage the formation of groups among rural women, particularly those in poverty to provide better access to financial resources.
Provide information and training for rural women on occupational health and safety, particularly with regard to new technologies and commodities.
Encourage provision of social protection for rural women including the extension of existing social security programmes currently available only to formal sector workers and devise a new form of protection designed specifically for informal and agricultural workers.
Provide support to womens advocacy groups and encourage them to continue playing an important role in creating better opportunities and space for women in productive activities and gaining control in the management of their communitys funds.
Assist gender mainstreaming activities through more effective use of the Chief Gender Equality Officers, the focal points in each government agency, and promote networking and collaboration among various government agencies that deal with rural and agricultural women.
Encourage collaboration among NGOs from all levels and sectors of interest to focus attention on rural women and thus mobilise support for improving the situation of rural women.