(See Annex B for Introductions by Moderators and Presentations by Panel Members)
Gender Equality in Policies and Planning: Nature and Scope
by its Moderator Ms Margareta Winberg, Minister for Agriculture and for Equal Opportunities of Sweden
I - The Discussion Panel, entitled Gender Equality in Policies and Planning: Nature and Scope, focused on the following points:
II - The presentations made by gender and agriculture specialists from development agencies, academia, and civil society were particularly enriching.
Mayra Buvinic, Chief of the Social Development Division of the Inter-American Development Bank, outlined women's contribution to the economy in Latin America and discussed how that contribution may be better measured. In a presentation entitled The Missing Workers: Women in the Rural Economies in LAC, Ms Buvinic highlighted the evolution of women's contributions in three areas: (a) their input to agriculture and off-farm production (field work in Honduras showed that official statistics grossly undercounted women workers, there is therefore a need for statistics that measure both rural women's work and well-being); (b) women's rising responsibilities for household well-being; (c) women's contributions to disaster preparedness and reconstruction (women's participation in reconstruction after hurricane Mitch could not be properly assessed because of the lack of sex-disaggregated information).
Agnes Quisumbing, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), made a presentation entitled The Generation and Use of Information on Women's Land Rights in the Design of Sustainable Agriculture Projects. Focusing on latest research in Ghana and Sumatra, Ms Quisumbing stressed the importance of providing policy-makers with the information to better understand the mechanisms by which women obtain access to land. Not only are land rights the most important productive input into agricultural production, they also often are women's entry point for accessing other productive resources, such as credit, irrigation water, produce from trees.
Linda Reinhardt, Chair of the Standing Committee on Women in Agriculture of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP), based her presentation about the needs for information on rural women, on her personal experience as a farmer in Kansas (USA), her extensive travelling and contacts with women farmers around the world, and also on her work as active member of various non-governmental organizations.
Maurice Albarka, Communication Specialist working for Innovation and Networks for Development (IRED) made a presentation on the situation of women in the Sahel, in particular in Niger, pointing out the lack of information on these women for the design of policies and development plans. He stressed the means (institutions, networking, grass-roots participation) that would enhance the collection of information on the role and responsibilities of women.
Soraya Altorki, Professor of Anthropology at the American University in Cairo, made a presentation on women and the rural economy in Egypt, highlighting the evolution of Egyptian female farmers' activities and responsibilities. She stressed the diversity and complexity which characterize women's roles in Egypt's agriculture. Women are crucial not only in agricultural production, but also in processing, packaging and marketing. Policies should therefore focus on how to incorporate women into the development of more effective processing and distribution systems.
Johan Pottier, Senior Social Anthropologist at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London, gave a presentation entitled Food Security and Gender: Information Gaps and How to Plug Them. Based on anthropological research, mainly in Central Africa, he emphasized three priority areas for policy attention: women's resourcefulness in agriculture; women's multi-stranded approach to achieving food security; male impoverishment and women's right to access land and inheritance.
III - The debate following the panel presentations was particularly interesting, allowing participants from FAO member countries and international organizations to show once again the diversity of situations rural women are confronted with throughout the world. The importance of generating sex-disaggregated statistics was stressed during the debate, but participants also pointed to the need for effectively using the information collected in the design of policies and adoption of concrete measures to improve rural women's social and economic situation. Gender specific information must not be collected just for the sake of being better informed about rural women, but for the sake of designing adequate gender-sensitive policies for sustainable rural development.
IV - The Moderator's conclusion was that women as farmers and women in rural areas must be at the top of FAO's political agenda. Today the contributions of women are too often invisible. That is particularly troublesome because it means that decision-makers are unable to understand the situation of the women in rural areas.
Much of the work must take place at the local level and involve NGOs. There should be a broader perspective for rural development, not just focusing on agriculture, but supporting also the various ways to gain income in rural areas. However, a change for the better for women in rural areas is not just an issue at the local level, it largely depends on global actions.
As a final personal remark, Ms Winberg added that a key to this lies with the richer countries, such as those of the European Union and the USA: if things are to change, agricultural policies of those countries have to be supportive of development in poorer countries, rather than to hinder it as is the case presently.