Gender equality is central to FAO's mandate to achieve food security. Men and women both play essential roles in agriculture, but almost everywhere, women face more severe constraints in accessing productive resources, markets and services and have less opportunities to participate in decision making. This "gender gap" hinders their productivity, imposes high social and economic costs on developing countries, slows down development and diminishes the capacity to achieve global food security. The State of Food and Agriculture 2011 estimates that if women farmers had the same access to agricultural resources as men farmers, the resulting increase in developing countries’ agricultural production could lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger.
To ensure that rural women benefit equally from agricultural and rural development programmes, the Gender, Equality and Rural Employment Division (ESW) leads FAO’s work under its Strategic Objective K to incorporate rural gender equality concerns into the Organization’s programmes and projects; to support governments to strengthen their capacities to incorporate gender and social equality issues in their policies and rural development programmes; and, as an active participant in UN system-wide policy and programming, to support the integration of rural gender equality concerns in relevant UN policies and joint programmes.
Policy advice and technical assistance
The Division uses its expertise to advise FAO’s Member Countries, technical divisions and partners on the formulation of their policies, programmes and projects to ensure that these address the needs of rural men and women equally.
The Division carries out gender capacity development on several levels:
- By working with Member Countries and partners to jointly identify and implement appropriate interventions to enhance their technical and functional capacities to sustainably integrate gender concerns into their programmes, projects and policies in agriculture, rural development, food and nutrition security. FAO supports Member Countries and partners to formulate and implement policies and lead policy reform; access, generate, manage and exchange information, sex-disaggregated data and knowledge; engage in networks, alliances and partnerships; and to implement and deliver programmes and projects, from planning to monitoring and evaluation. FAO takes into consideration the enabling dimension, which is the broad social system in which Member Country organizations and individuals function, including the policy and planning frameworks within which they operate; the organizational dimension that refers to all public, private and civil society organizations in and across Member Countries; and the individual dimension, which refers to Member Country staff, representatives, community members and other key stakeholders.
- By supporting national statistical institutions and specialised government agencies in collecting, analyzing and using sex-disaggregated statistics (SDD) to formulate gender equitable policies and initiatives. The Division has developed the Agri-Gender Statistics Toolkit and Database, which guides users to determine the type of agricultural data they should collect and the appropriate methods to analyze this data. The Division also works jointly with FAO’s decentralized offices to undertake capacity development of national statistical organizations, and contributes to a number of publications and SDD initiatives in partnership with FAO's Statistics Unit, and with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
- By supporting initiatives that build the capacity of rural people to participate in the formulation of agricultural and rural development programmes and policies. As such, the Division implements FAO Dimitra, a participatory information and communication approach that builds rural men and women’s capacities to make their voices heard through information dissemination and the exchange of experiences.
Research, analysis and knowledge sharing
The Division carries out research and analysis on gender equitable rural development to inform its advisory and capacity development services and to contribute to the body of knowledge on this issue. Specific areas of research include gender equitable rural employment in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO),gender and agriculture in partnership with the World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), gender and rural institutions, gender and population dynamics, and gender, biodiversity and climate change. The Division has also developed the Gender and Land Rights Database, which provides country level information on women’s land rights, and works with FAO's Multidisciplinary Fund on Gender and Food Security (MDF), which comprises six technical divisions working to reinforce gender mainstreaming within their work.
Integration of gender equality issues into UN system-wide programming
The Division actively participates in UN system-wide policy and programming to unify development assistance provided by the UN family of agencies at country level. It leads FAO’s participation in the initiative on the subject of rural gender equality and represents the Organization in related international high-level meetings and conventions including the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Division also works to integrate rural gender equality concerns into relevant UN policies and joint programmes and to strengthen FAO’s partnerships with other UN agencies on gender equality and women’s empowerment.