Empowering women through strengthened livelihoods

Empowering women through strengthened livelihoods

02/12/2016

Women are on the front line of the agricultural system, providing major inputs to the cultivation, processing and marketing of produce. Failing to address the inequalities and discrimination that face women and girls will make it impossible to end hunger in South Sudan. There is an urgent need to close the gender gap in South Sudan and provide better protection for women and girls, who face continuous distressing levels of sexual and gender-based violence.

“Gender relationships in South Sudan are complex but livelihood roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated – and this needs to change. Men and boys are seen as the decision-makers and women only for taking care of the household. It is a terrifying reality that women in South Sudan have little to no rights,” explains AbdalMonium Osman, FAO Head of Programmes in South Sudan.

To mark the annual «16 Days of Activism against Violence against Women», FAO is urging  the elimination of gender-based violence and calling for the closure of the gender gap. For FAO, this means targeted measures like ensuring women and girls have access to resources such as land, seeds, tools, as well as  empowerment through education in order to gain knowledge and skills that can strengthen their livelihoods

“Women and girls are at high risk of abuse, and face specific threats such as sexual harassment, rape and other forms of gender-based violence, underscoring the need for protection and collaboration to end violence and reduce the persistent inequalities between men and women that perpetuate violence. Here at FAO, we design our interventions so that we provide both protection from such risks while also looking to empower women,” highlights Rose Adede, FAO Gender Officer.

A recent FAO assessment shows that during the most volatile periods in South Sudan, women ensured the survival of their families by adapting and adopting new roles previously carried out by men such as fishing and ox-ploughing in order to ensure food production. As a result, women instigated change in cultural attitudes and beliefs; however, there is still a long way to go. 
Mary (pseudonym), a 40-year-old woman from Rumbek, told FAO about the harassment and inequality that is part of her daily life.

“Women here are not worth much – a man would rather lose his wife than one of his cows. My husband makes all the decisions for myself and our family, and when we have money he decides what it is spent on. There are times when we do not have enough food in the house because he has bought alcohol, and my children will come to me asking for food, which I do not have. Before I joined FAO’s farmer field school, I knew nothing about taking care of vegetables. I would plant some sorghum (cereal) around the house, but it would not be enough. With the group I prepared the vegetable garden, and planted in my own plot. The teacher would tell me what to do, and when the harvest came I never imagined that I would have so much food for my family. I learned a lot from that time, and I started planting more and more. This gave me some money, and I can buy the things I want. It is my money and my husband cannot decide for me.”

In 2016, FAO worked with over 600 women like Mary, through the farmer field school approach, paving the way for their empowerment by strengthening their livelihoods.