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المنتدى العالمي المعني بالأمن الغذائي والتغذية

Re: Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts

Libor Stloukal

Dear Colleagues,

When we contemplate about how to best achieve gender transformative impacts (Question 3 of this Forum), we should not forget about agricultural policies.

Agricultural policies are powerful instruments for directing rural development. As such, they have a strong comparative advantage to close the gender gap in rural societies. Specifically, they help to regulate – and therefore can improve – the conditions under which rural women access productive resources (such as land and water), rural services (such as rural finance, rural infrastructure, rural advisory services, etc.), economic opportunities (jobs, markets) and critical institutions (such as producer organizations, agricultural committees, etc.). Indirectly, agricultural policies can also affect the decision-making within rural household and communities, for instance by providing sector-wide incentives to register land in women’s names, let women and girls participate in farmers’ trainings, create cooperatives and start enterprises, etc.

It is a regrettable reality that agricultural policies often remain gender-blind. Let me use CAADP as an example. Numerous CAADP representatives and official documents have emphasized that gender should not just be a paragraph in the plans, but should be included in every stage of the CAADP process. And yet a 2011 review by ActionAid of CAADP country plans for Nigeria, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ghana and Zambia found “a persistent failure to identify and prioritise the needs, constraints, and opportunities of women farmers” (see, page 11). I believe such a gap between policy rhetoric and policy reality can be found in many other countries around the world.

So what can we do to make agricultural policies work for women farmers? Several lines of action come to mind:

  • Increase the availability of sex-disaggregated data on agriculture, to improve knowledge about the magnitude of gender gaps and provide firmer evidence-base for policy formulation and monitoring.
  • Sensitize agricultural policy-makers to the needs and capacities of rural women, and build their confidence for the formulation and implementation of policies to address gender inequalities in agriculture. Policy-makers must understand also rural men's concerns, if policy change is to be effective.
  • Analyze agricultural policies from the gender perspective, to identify gaps, inconsistencies and possible entry points for improvement.
  • Collect and disseminate good practices in gender-sensitive policy-making, and learn from examples of agricultural policies that have measurably improved women’s well-being.
  • Enhance the participation of rural women in agriculture-related policy processes, so that their voices can be heard and their preferences duly reflected in policy documents.
  • Promote policy dialogues among various stakeholders (including CSOs, producer organizations, the private sector, among others), as well as south-south exchanges of policy experiences and ideas.
  • Help to ensure that agricultural policy-makers are mandated to address rural gender inequalities, held to account for undertaking specific gender-related actions, and assessed on their achievements. Mandates and accountability give teeth to policy initiatives.

If I may, I would like to add that in FAO we are developing what we call the Gender in Agricultural Policies Assessment Tool (GAPo). The GAPo aims to provide policy makers with practical, evidence-based guidance for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in agricultural policies, with a view to achieving the new Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. It allows stakeholders involved in policy formulation processes to analyze and assess the gender equality gaps in national agricultural policies and identify concrete solutions to address those gaps. As a policy tool, the GAPo:

  • promotes a participatory approach to policy analysis, with particular focus on facilitating an open dialogue among representatives of key government bodies, civil society organizations, producer associations, the private sector, and the academia;
  • places special emphasis on those policy areas that have the strongest potential to influence rural women’s livelihoods, including: access to productive resources, employment, markets, financial services, research, rural advisory services, and rural organizations;
  • recognizes that within each key policy area, gender equality should be considered at all stages of the policy cycle: policy formulation, definition of policy goals and impact indicators, budgeting, capacity development of relevant actors, monitoring and evaluation, and policy adaptation.

FAO has already piloted the GAPo in Ghana and Kyrgyzstan and our experiences indicate that the tool can be quite effective in helping national stakeholders to understand how agricultural policies affect rural women and what kind of policy action may be needed to make existing policies more gender sensitive. We hope to be able to make the GAPo publicly available very soon.

Libor Stloukal, member of the gender team in FAO