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Part I: Proceedings

Part I: Proceedings


The Regional Expert Consultation on Gender Issues in Agricultural and Rural Development Policy in Asia and the Pacific was held in the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), from 1 to 5 November, 1993. It was attended by 12 participants from 11 countries, plus two observers and the FAO Secretariat. A list of participants appears in Annex IV, page 21, of this publication. The meeting was opened by Mr. A.Z.M. Obaidullah Khan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative, who said:

The full text of the speech is given in Annex I, page 15, of this publication. A list of the documents provided at the Consultation appears in Annex II on page 17. The Provisional Agenda (Annex III, page 19) was adopted, and Ms. Khawar Mumtaz (Pakistan) was selected to chair the first day of the Consultation. She was followed by Dr. Gautam Yadama (India), Dr. Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop (Western Samoa), Dr. Piedad Geron (Philippines) and Mr. Krishnamurthy Rajan (India), respectively, on each of the successive days.

The keynote speaker was unable to attend, at short notice. Ms. Alexandra Stephens, RAPA Regional Sociologist and Women in Development Officer, therefore, presented an address before the Consultation broke for coffee/tea, after which a wide-ranging discussion of key gender issues in agricultural and rural development was held in plenary.

On the second day, each participant presented a statement highlighting the major issues from their own countries. The statements were followed by questions and discussion. A summary of presentations prepared by each participant appears in Annex V, page 25.

The Secretariat provided four resource papers for the Consultation:

Ms. Alexandra Stephens introduced two papers (GIAP/93/1 and 2). These highlighted major gender issues at the global and regional levels, drawing out implications for policy planners in a five-point framework provided by Dr. Marilyn Waring's paper:

For discussion the experts added a sixth, the "Socio-Cultural Imperative." The full papers are presented in Part III, page 39, of this publication. Much of the discussion on these papers was linked with the discussion on the following two papers:

Paper GIAP/93/3, introduced by Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, focusses on policy at the national level, especially in Pakistan, but also relevant to many other countries. The paper examines the imperatives under which national policies evolve, and their implications for rural women's role and status. Her paper begins on page 87.

The final resource paper, GIAP/93/4, deals particularly with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and their work in gender and policy in the forestry sector. Dr. Gautam Yadama introduced the paper and elaborated on empirical studies carried out in community forestry projects in India and Nepal, with lessons on gender issues in forest-related policy. His paper begins on page 105.

A drafting committee met on the penultimate day to review the notes of the meeting taken by Ms. Mumtaz and the Secretariat, and to prepare the draft report.

Major findings

All papers - country and resource papers alike - evoked lively and wide-ranging discussion. At the end of each of the first three days, a summary of the major gender issues emerging for policy makers was made in plenary, and a copy of the summary was provided to each participant next morning. These formed the basis for discussion on day four, in which issues were reviewed and consolidated under the five major categories provided in Waring's paper - issues of economic, planning, political, ecological and moral imperatives - as well as a section on socio-cultural imperatives.

The gender issues which emerged focussed on the disadvantages faced by women farmers. Grouped under the six headings in note form, these are summarized below:

The Economic Issues

The Planning Issues

1. Inadequate gender-differentiated and disaggregated data, as well as data gaps with regard to rural women, which results in overlooking gender issues for macro (national and regional) and micro (intra-household, farm, community, etc.) planning. Chronically-biased data causing skewed policies in favour of male farmers and men in general.

2. Lack of appropriate methodologies that recognize and value women's contribution, actual and potential, to productive activities and which result in women's marginalization in projects and programmes.

3. Women are marginalized in the planning process. Existing institutional structures and practices exclude or at least do not facilitate women's participation. Few women in official decision making.

4. Lack of women's participation, especially in terms of gender differences, in the design, monitoring and evaluation of policies, projects and programmes and failure to monitor and evaluate gender differences, or to provide feedback (especially to women).


a) Women are treated as welfare recipients in many employment and income-generating projects rather than as assets developing their own productive potential. "Soft" criteria applied in feasibility assessments, leading to non-viable women's projects.


b) Inadequate appreciation of the impact of policies on women (especially in food security, land tenure, and credit).


c) Inadequate appreciation of the impact of population, growth, migration, fertility and other demographic changes on women.


a) Absence of clear linkages and coordination between policy formulation and resource allocations.


b) Policy statements addressing gender issues are often vague or ambiguous, and easily overlooked.


c) There is usually an absence of any direct relationship between policy formulation, resource allocations, and implementation.

7. The formulation of macro policy rarely draws on micro planning and analysis.

8. Low technical and management skills among rural females.

Political Issues

1. Institutional barriers to women's political participation and organization (patriarchy, non-organization of women, rural isolation).

2. Lack of gender equity in remuneration, opportunities, conditions of service, access, etc., rural/urban biases and inequity.

3. Covert and overt policy biases against women, due to policies overlooking or excluding gender-equity considerations.

4. Mandates in regard to women are either absent, weak or not enforced.

5. Human rights documents are not explicit on women's rights. There is little monitoring of human rights protocols and instruments, and even less accountability.

6. Agricultural policies do not articulate gender issues so they are not considered.

Socio-Cultural Issues

1. Lack of gender awareness at all levels in all cultures. Stereotypes.

2. Social and cultural constraints on women's participation, for example, women's triple burden, male orientations in policy making.

3. Low status and disadvantaged position of women resulting in lower education; little access to training; non-participation in decision making, lower income, nutrition, health, etc; few property rights; and limited access to resources.

4. Traditional knowledge systems become distorted, eroded and undermined, while new knowledge is often inaccessible to rural women. Non-recognition of the value of traditional knowledge.

5. Women's low self perception and self-esteem, and few positive role models.

The Ecological Issues

1. Complexity of ecological issues; their impact on gender at macro and micro levels.

2. Conflicts or the potential for conflict over resources in development interventions need to be anticipated, and gender issues addressed.

3. Food security and sustainable development need to be accorded priority.

The Moral Issues

1. Macro policies are usually concerned more with economic growth than with people and equity.

2. There are major gaps between policies, attitudes (to resource allocation, for example) and practice.

3. Women's lower status/position and their access to opportunities, resources, and assets. Women's rights as human rights.

4. Structural adjustment and economic growth models disregard many critical moral and ethical issues. These affect women disproportionately.


With the above issues agreed as major items for consideration, participants then examined the efficacy of policy instruments to address each issue. Recognizing the inter-linkages between many of the issues within and across each category, a set of recommendations emerged.

Underpinning economic, planning, political, socio-cultural and ecological imperatives in development, moral issues were identified as critical to and influencing each and every other imperative. Those of particular concern in relation to gender in agricultural and rural development included questions of agricultural growth - particularly as it affects household food security and poorer people - and linkages between growth, productivity, equity, ecological impact, population and social transformation.

Human rights and women's rights within human rights protocols were identified as of fundamental importance in relation to mainstreaming women. The economic payoff in mainstreaming was considered an inadequate justification in itself, although it is perhaps the most powerful argument at women's disposal. Accountability was also recognized as inadequate to reflect the participation of women in agricultural and rural development. This should be addressed in mandates for the monitoring of progress, by developing and using suitable gender-sensitive social, economic, political and environmental indicators for monitoring and evaluation.

The Economic Imperative

1. Policies should spell out specific legislation and programmes of action to entitle women to productive assets, access to inputs (land, credit, water, fertilizer, seeds, information, technology and training, etc.), access to markets, and women's full membership in organizations.

2. Efforts to formulate sustainable development policies should recognize the impact of unsustainable practices on women, especially in relation to food security and marginal groups (women, households headed by women). Intra-household food allocation should be investigated, and addressed if necessary.

3. Agricultural policies and technology must seek to eliminate drudgery, to improve economic efficiency and wages for the time spent by women, and to mitigate against the displacement of female labour.

4. Measures to increase productivity must be accompanied by policies to ensure commensurate increase in incomes, wages and other benefits for women.

5. The manner and sequencing of structural adjustment policies, and changes in the macroeconomic policies to be implemented, must take into consideration their impact on women, especially the poorest, and provide safety nets for vulnerable groups.

The Planning Imperative


a) Policy directive needed so that all relevant data are disaggregated, from household to national level, and data gaps identified and filled.


b) Compilation of data from alternative sources to complement and/or correct misleading information from traditional sources.

2. Appropriate methodologies and guidelines are needed to recognize and value women's contribution, actual and potential, to productive activities in the economy. Indicators to evaluate the inclusion of gender concerns in programmes, projects and policies should also be developed.

3. Planning, project formulation and design, and monitoring and evaluation must include women and their concerns. A feedback mechanism should be built-in at all these stages, with gender responsive persons involved in planning exercises.


a) Policies and programmes should explicitly aim to mainstream women by addressing their concerns and facilitating their participation.


b) Policy planners must be sensitized to the impact of their policies on women, so that they pay due attention to such issues as food security and demographic changes. This implies gender-sensitising and gender analysis training for policy planners.


a) Agricultural and rural development policies should accord women access to and control over productive assets, rather than merely transferring income for consumption.


b) and c) Policy planners must be made aware of the impact of their policies on women, so that they pay due attention to such issues as food security, etc., and also be responsive to rapid demographic changes.


a) The planning process should consider gender concerns in prioritizing policies and programmes, and demonstrate commitment by allocating commensurate resources.


b) Gender issues should be clearly identified and goals or targets explicitly stated in policies and programmes, accompanied by appropriate methodologies and guidelines.


c) Policy makers and planners should be gender-sensitized and equipped with the skills of gender analysis in planning.

7. There should be effective forward and backward linkages between micro and macro planning and policies.

8. Women's development should be given priority as an indispensable part of human resource development, recognizing women's needs and their potential as partners in development.

9. Governments should provide a policy framework to capitalize on the positive experiences of NGOs to facilitate a coherent, collaborative approach to NGO programmes which assist vulnerable groups, such as poor rural women.

The Political Imperative

1. Policies must seek to dismantle all barriers to full participation by rural women, especially poor women farmers, from household to national levels.

2. Agricultural and rural development policies must explicitly state the various ways and means by which gender equity can be assured in relation to remuneration, opportunities, access to resources and institutions.

3. Explicit and implicit policy biases against women in agricultural and rural development must be identified and removed.


a) Policy makers must familiarize themselves with relevant international protocols to which their States are party (for example, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women) and incorporate these into national policies. They must also be held accountable.


b) Policy makers must write mandates into policies, programmes and plans to address specific gender issues.

5. Policy must recognize women's rights as an integral part of human rights.

Social and Cultural Imperatives

1. Policy makers and other decision makers at all levels must be made aware of gender equity issues and internalize the skills for gender analysis.

2. Agricultural policy makers should recognize, identify and seek to redress the social and cultural constraints which prevent women farmers' equal participation in agricultural and rural development programmes, such as women's triple burden, and male orientation in policy making.

3. Policy instruments should be applied to encourage an enabling environment for women's participation.

4. Agricultural and rural development policy makers should recognize and acknowledge the value of women's traditional knowledge systems, incorporating and developing these where appropriate in planning initiatives and strategies. At the same time, measures must be taken to increase women's accessibility to new knowledge (science and technology).

5. Agricultural and rural development policy must address the issue of women's low self-esteem through policy measures in agricultural and rural development education, reorientation and mobilization of the mass media, extension and training, and support services to women farmers.

Ecological Imperatives

1. Policies must recognize the complexities of gender in ecological issues, and their impact at macro and micro levels on rural women. This will require examination of the relationship between women and men in access to and control over common property resources, "family" land, water resources, such external inputs as fertilizer, credit, technology, and so on.

2. Conflicts over natural resources need to be anticipated and addressed in order to protect the interests of women and vulnerable (powerless, assetless) groups.

3. Women should not be held responsible for environmental degradation and restoration of the natural resource base, even though they are disproportionately affected. "User pays" principles should be adopted.

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