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03.02.2014 - 26.02.2014

Focusing on Rural Women in a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Framework

"Globally and with only a few exceptions, rural women fare worse than rural men and urban women and men for every MDG indicator for which data are available.” (Interagency Task Force on Rural Women, Fact Sheet on Rural Women, 2012)

On Thursday 6 February, the Rome-based Agencies (Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP), hosted a side-event focusing on rural women in an SDG Framework at the Eighth session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals held in New York. 

This online discussion is aimed at stimulating wider discussion on the topic of rural women. While the exchange is not designed to feed information directly into the event itself, the inclusive approach of the Open Working Group encourages debate on subjects related to each session.

Rural women everywhere play a key role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving rural livelihoods and overall well-being. They contribute to agriculture and rural enterprises and fuel local and global economies. As such, they are active players in achieving the MDGs.

Yet, every day, around the world, rural women and girls face persistent structural constraints that prevent them from fully enjoying their human rights and hamper their efforts to improve their lives as well as those of others around them.

Poor rural people face multiple forms of deprivations and discrimination. Rural women, in particular, face major barriers to access productive resources and face disadvantages and exclusion rooted in the power inequalities associated with gender roles, leaving them disproportionately represented among the rural poor.

This side event will support the Eighth Session of the OWG’s focus on “Promoting equality, including social equity, gender equality and women’s empowerment”.  It  will explore ways to ensure that a post-2015 development agenda improves the status of rural women through a rights based approach and the implementation of improved policies, strategies and targeted interventions, underpinned by strengthening governance and relevant institutions. It will discuss, inter alia, priorities for improving rural women’s livelihoods,  access to justice and legal rights, economic empowerment,  and access to decision making at all levels, and thus show how improved conditions of women in rural areas can help to achieve all development goals.  Emphasis will be put on targets and indicators supported by gender disaggregated data to better monitor progress in rural women's lives.

The Panel will include senior representatives of the three organizing partners, an organization of rural women, and at least one representative of a national government.

Your thoughts and views addressing the subject of rural women would be a valuable addition to the online discussion ahead of the side-event at the Open Working Group.  We are eager to receive your responses on  the following questions:

1. If you had made an intervention at the side event on rural women at the 8th session of the Open Working Group in New York, what would have been its key message?

2. Rural women are often described as critical agents of change in discussions on sustainable development goals. To what extent would the achievement of food and nutrition security for rural women help accelerate sustainable development? 

3. Of the many facts or stats recorded on rural women, which one do you consider to be the most revealing?


FAO's Post 2015 Development Agenda team

This discussion is now closed. Please contact for any further information.

Dr. Eileen Omosa We Grow Ideas, Canada


The most revealing fact about rural women is that they are repositories of knowledge on farming. Land being one of the most important and sometimes the only asset of many rural families, many women have spent `entire lives’ on land. Just like recognized scientists in modern laboratories, rural women are always carrying out experiments on the farm and publishing their findings in the next planting season or at the family kitchen. The difference is that the experiments of women family farm workers implemented in real life conditions. What more could society ask for?

Rural women have not only perfected the art of cultivating a variety of food crops to meet the food and nutritional needs of their families, but also to buffer the various crops from pests and vulnerabilities from changes in weather conditions. Majority of those women will provide details on reasons for inter-planting onions with other vegetables, reasons why once in a while she feeds her chicken on onion leaves, what type of beans do well when inter-cropped with maize, etc. Rural women as farmers and providers of food for families are best placed to tell relations between crops on the farm and the nutritional well-being of family members, the reason they grow a variety of vegetables, a variety of fruit trees on the farm, keep poultry and livestock on the limited land sizes.

One way to support rural women in their farming and nutritional endeavours is to engage them in policy formulation discussions. One other lesson I learned from working and learning with rural land users is how fast it is to generate policy documents based on the reality in the farms. That policy makers save time and other resources when they start with rural level meetings where the `real players’ will provide first-hand information on how current policies, for example on land tenure support or create problems in their farming tasks. For example, policy makers and scholars struggling with the finer details of a land tenure policy that provides access and control to women farmers could be surprised to hear from the women that the traditional land tenure systems were in their own sense private tenure and provided the required tenure security, compared to the current one of title registration which centralizes power over land with few individuals.

Achieving food and nutritional security goes back to the basics: when did `good food’ change from being what families grow on family farms, to what is sold in stores? As I have always asked, what type of information makes a loving mother to sell her harvest of eggs and bananas at the local market to purchase bread and soda for her children? In other words, sustainable food and nutrition asks that `we’ engage not only with policy makers, but with the private sector and their marketing arm.

My key message “ask members of the Open Working Group who have spent one year of their adult life in a rural area to stand up, tall”

Prof. James F. Albrecht International Police Association, United States of America
James F.


International Police Association Statement

Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition

Gender Equality, Rule of Law and Criminal Justice Administration

in Developing Nations

James F. Albrecht


The issue of gender equality as it relates to rule of law and the administration of criminal justice may be addressed through a number of perspectives.  First, female victims of crime, whether in urban or rural settings, must have their voices heard and not be denied the opportunity to report their victimization.  Second, criminal justice agencies, such as the police and the courts, must ensure that females are properly represented within their ranks. And third, government officials must ensure that females are granted the same professional and promotional opportunities as their male counterparts.

Analysis & Recommendations: Women Issues in Criminal Justice Administration

When one thinks of the interaction of women and the policing profession, three main issues come to mind. What steps have law enforcement administrators taken to ensure that females are properly represented in front line, supervisory, and executive positions? How do criminal justice officials interact and deal with female victims of crime and women offenders? And in developing countries, and more so in rural areas, have gender responsive measures been implemented to address the sensitive issues involving domestic violence, sexual abuse and harassment, and the ideological and cultural constraints on contact and interaction with females? 

When put into historical context, these issues have only been recently addressed on the global level. Progress has been slow and one can only conclude that these endeavors are moving in the right direction. It would appear that efforts to incorporate “affirmative action” or the preferential hiring and promotion of females in criminal justice and policing positions have led to noticeable and constructive organizational changes.  However, these efforts at creating a gender balanced work environment have received criticism from male colleagues and have resulted in predominantly unsuccessful challenges in the courts. Most police departments in the USA and the EU have shown considerable success and improvement in incorporating females into front line, investigatory, and supervisory policing positions. On the other hand, there has been only notable but slow progress in Caribbean nations; some advancement in Turkey; but little reported improvement in achieving a gender balance in policing agencies in South Korea. Similar conclusions can be made in relation to Pakistan as many studies have revealed that women police officers in a number of Pakistani cities report a certain level of job satisfaction, but many also have raised reservation in recommending a police position to female friends and family members. More disturbingly is the overwhelming perception that work place sexual harassment is not only pervasive in Pakistan, but goes unaddressed and unpunished.[1]

            Of equal merit is that it is evident that domestic violence and criminality targeting females in Pakistan has not been properly documented and addressed. Research has shown that the male dominated police profession apparently views these issues as private ones and not suitable for criminal justice intervention.  One main obstacle has been the lack of training provided to law enforcement personnel to comprehensively deal with these offenses and incidents. Due to this lack of appropriate attention by law enforcement organizations, many female victims and the neighborhood at large have engaged in vigilantism in Pakistan to seek revenge against predators that have targeted female community members.  Clearly this situation has diminished the credibility of the police there, yet criminal justice and government administrators have made little effort to improve this dereliction of duty. [2]

            There is a critical need for the international community, donor groups, and NGOs to continue to coordinate conferences and alliances to promote and to ensure progress as it relates to gender responsive policing and the advancement of women in the law enforcement and criminal justice arena.

            As a result of comprehensive research, a number of findings and recommendations can be proposed to improve the conditions for female victims of crime and enhance the roles that women play in criminal justice administration:

·         Although affirmative action and preferential hiring and promotion of women and minority groups in the criminal justice sector have received some scrutiny, these initiatives have proven to be successful in increasing the number of females in law enforcement and other public service agencies.

·         All training and in-service education for criminal justice agencies should incorporate gender related issues into their curricula.

·         Law enforcement and criminal justice organizations must ensure that agency policy and procedure appropriately address and outline the necessary steps needed for dealing with female victims of crime.

·         Federal guidelines and legislation must be created to mandate that sexual harassment and all forms of workplace discrimination, including engaging in retaliation for those who file complaints, are unacceptable and will lead to severe penalties, including the loss of position.

·         Criminal justice and police organizations must make certain that all facilities have proper accommodations for both male and female employees and visitors.

·         The international community, federal authorities, donor groups, and NGOs must continue to coordinate meetings and initiatives to address and enhance the special needs of female employees and women community members, particularly in certain geographical regions, e.g. the Middle East, south-east Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, South America, south-east Europe, and the Far East, where progress has been slow or negligible.

·         In nations where ideological issues may deter the direct interaction of male police personnel and female crime victims, as in Pakistan and some surrounding countries, federal and regional criminal justice administrators should strongly consider creating female only police stations (or teams) to ensure equality and professionalism when interacting with all community members. 


In conclusion, it can not be emphasized enough how important it is that the voices of women in urban and rural communities be heard, recognized, and properly addressed. And just as relevant, criminal justice agencies, including the front line actor, the police, must reflect the gender and diversity of the communities in which they serve. 


About the Author and the International Police Association: James F. Albrecht is a professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven in the USA. He is a former police executive in New York City, who has also worked as a police advisor, trainer, and chief investigator for the United States Department of State, the United Nations, and the European Union.  The International Police Association External Relations Commission provides law enforcement and rule of law policy experts to distinguished organizations such as the United Nations, Europol, Interpol, Organization of American States, among others. The goal of the International Police Association External Relations Commission is to improve the professionalism and effectiveness in the field of policing globally.

[1] The specific research works cited above are included in the Special Edition of the Pakistan Journal of Criminology that highlighted women issues in criminal justice and females working in police agencies.

[2] The Pakistan Society of Criminology has been highly proactive in analyzing and calling for drastic improvements for female victims of crime and women working within the criminal justice system within Pakistan and in surrounding countries.


Kirunda David , Uganda
FSN Forum

Received via FAO Facebook page

Women need empowerment by teaching them the skills of modern farming and subsidize them with agriculture facilities in their local communities as one of the measures taken to transform them from subsistance farming to commercial one.

Carsta Neuenroth Bread for the World, Germany
FSN Forum

Dear moderators,

below find the contribution of Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service to the online discussion.

  1. If you could make an intervention at the side event on rural women at the 8th session of the Open Working Group in New York, what would be its key message?

The closing of gender gaps is a demand in its own right aimed at the realization of women’s human rights. Women need access to education, health and employment in an environment free of violence. This is also the context in which women’s role in agriculture, food security and sustainable development should be acknowledged and valued. Accordingly, women need access to and control over agricultural and productive resources, especially land as well as equal opportunities than men for political participation and decision making. Patriarchal power structures and patterns of thought and behavior need to be challenged. This is related to the necessity to re-validate the care work women provide for society and their contributions to livelihood and food security. Existing gender roles and the traditional division of labor should not further be compounded. A transformative approach is needed to strengthen women’s position in society.

  1. Rural women are often described as critical agents of change in discussions on sustainable development goals. To what extent would the achievement of food and nutrition security for rural women help accelerate sustainable development?

Food and nutrition security for rural women (and girls) depends on the full realization of their human rights, including their right to adequate food and nutrition. Amongst other aspects, this includes:  

  • Women’s freedom from direct and/or structural violence. Women suffering from violence cannot participate as autonomous actors in efforts to address hunger and food insecurity.
  • An agro-ecological approach to farming, supporting smaller scaled and family farms. Since women have to take care of their families and put food on the table, they are interested in producing a variety of food which can be consumed by the family. Agro-ecological systems respond to women’s priorities. With regard to improving existing farming practices, women need information, training and assistance. Training and assistance should be provided by female extension workers. Yet, agricultural extension is still a domain of men.
  • Promotion of locally available and sustainable interventions such as breastfeeding, reproductive health and rights and the enhancement of and access to local and regional production based on agro-ecological principles as an alternative to medicalized nutrition interventions. Agriculture and production need to be linked to nutrition and health much more strongly than is presently the case. 
  • Support of local knowledge as promoted by IAASTD, the FAO Voluntary Guidelines to the Right to Food and food sovereignty movements in general. Women often are ignored, overlooked and not taken seriously by men when they refer to their local knowledge. Women are still seen by their male family members as well as by many development experts as farmwives rather than true farmers.
  • Increasing autonomy and self determination of women and girls at all levels (local, national, international)

All the above issues need to be advanced through supportive policies at national and international level in favor of gender equality and food sovereignty in order to benefit both women and men. Local food systems shaped in the context of a rights based approach have the potential to foster greater economic autonomy, gender equality and social justice. Thus, food and nutrition security for rural women and girls and the realization of their right to adequate food and nutrition signifies that sustainable development has already been accelerated.

  1. Of the many facts or stats recorded on rural women, which one do you consider to be the most revealing?

55 percent of the gains against hunger in developing countries between 1970 and 1995 were due to the improvement of women’s situation within society.

The above information shows that there is no development, particularly no sustainable development, without the active participation of women. However, the following data shows how structurally embedded gender inequalities in agriculture prevent women farmers from using their competencies and developing their capacities:

Women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, but own only 1 – 2 percent of the agricultural land.

If women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 – 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 – 4 percent, which in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 – 12 percent.

Globally, women comprise only 15 percent of all agricultural extension workers, and only 5 percent of extension services benefit women farmers.

With best regards,

Carsta Neuenroth
Policy Adviser Gender
Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service
Protestant Agency for Diakonia and Development


Themba Phiri Jam International, South Africa


The role of women in agriculture cannot be over emphasized. Women play a pivotal role in addressing food security, nutrition and health programs at household level, however there is urgent need to start respecting women’s views when it comes to seed selection, trials and demonstrations and giving them a voice in deciding what to market and not what to market. The rural urban migration has left many women tending the fields whilst their male counterparts are looking for paid employment in big cities, this alone speaks volume on how farming is in the hands of the rural women hence we need to empower this target group with all necessary skills of agriculture development.


Themba Phiri
Agricultural Technical Specialist


Mamadou Saliou Diallo CAFT, Senegal
FSN Forum

Mesdames et messieurs

Je suis tout à fait d'accord avec vous sur votre vision sur la participation incontournable des femmes rurales dans le processus de participation à l'autosuffisance alimentaire en Afrique.

Si nous prenons le cas du Sénégal ,les femmes travaillent beaucoup et gagnent peu de leur effort.

Si on leur donne les moyens de leur mission elles donneront des résultats inattendus dans ce domaine.

Il leur faut une formation ,du matériel et un encadrement pour qu'elles y parviennent.

C'est pourquoi le gouvernement a lancé un nouveau projet sur l'agro-industrie pour permettre à ces dernières de participer de façons effectives pour la construction de l'objectif de l'atteinte de l'auto suffisance alimentaire en 2015.

Nous avons un grand potentiel et des ressources humaines qui sont prêtes à s'engager.

Je peux donner les orientations dans ce sens pour mon pays le Sénégal.


Mr Mamadou Saliou Diallo
Président de l'association CAFT
Dakar -Sénégal
Programme de lutte contre l'ignorance et la pauvreté

Mr. Henry Kizito Good Neighbors Development Organization, Uganda

Rural women play an important role of producing food not only for their households but also for the urban population through formal and informal trade. Therefoe, agriculture is very vital to rural women because it acts as a stimulant for non-farm activities like trade, education, improved housing; improved water sources for human consumption and energy sources and use are all associated with poverty alleviation.

Rural women are mainly responsible for household food production. Men tend to focus on growing cash crops or migrate to towns to find paid work.  The worsening of poverty and increase in the number of ssingle parent families mainly due to HIV/AIDS epedemic is still a major handicap to women mainstreaming in development activities. This implies that women must turn to income generating activities because their contribution to the national economy is enormous.

Women farmer institutions need to be formed because such outreach activities can increase the productivity of women in home based production, including agriculture and provision and use of household resources. Generally extension or outreach programs for women can correct factor market distortions, provide women with more equal agricultural and household technologies, and expand the effective supply of credit where they produce for market. Market opportunities can bring service providers and women farmer's together.

However, much as women are described as agents of change, they still find a lot oc challenges that do not enable them chieve  their development goals. They mostly have small-scale farms, use traditional techniques and technologies, depend on family labour, and have little or no capital to invest towards commercialization and most of their inputs(family land, labour and saved are monetized. For example in Uganda, there is no policy to ensure that small holder rural women farmer's use good quality seeds, planting, and stocking materials. Often times, the seeds supplied by the government programme of National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) to women are fake with low germination percentages, the agrochemical and livestock such as dairy, cows, piglets, and chicken are very low grade making loses for small holde women farmers. In addition, most rural women do not keep farm records which would provide information as a basis for planning and balancing their production and sales against their household food requirements.

Corruption is one of the greatest evils that have undermined rural women in accelerating development in Uganda.  A desire for more power is responsible for the destruction of so many individual's moral fibres. That is why more Afican economies are poor because of high levels of corruption, where records indicate that men are corruptible than women. They (men) dominate African governments, and the solution therefore, is to encourage and campaign for more representation of women in African governments.

According to the World Bank Report on Women Development 2012, it observes that for very poor countries female labour for participation is high, reflecting a large labour-intensive  agricultural sector and significant numbers of poor households. It is therefore necessary for governments to encourage rural women farmer's to Farmers Enterprise Groups which follow a clear and streamlined process that should enable integration of both "poor" and "rich" farmers. This could be coupled with arrangement of agricultural study visits, exhibition, workshops and seminars to facilitate informed farming practice and decision making in order to realize sustainable livelihood among women.   


Morgane Danielou Farming First , France
FSN Forum

I would like to draw your attention to an infographic co-created by FAO and Farming First entitled "The Female Face of Farming", which outlines the challenges and opportunities rural women farmers face.

You can view the interactive infographic here:

Each graphic can be downloaded and embedded into presentations -  colleagues are invited to share and use them, with a credit to FAO/Farming First.

Kind regards,

Morgane Danielou
Co-Chair of Farming First


Ms. Maria Antip Policy Analyst at International Fertilizer Industry Association (IFA), ...

One key aspect of empowering rural women is ensuring that they have adequate access to affordable and appropriate inputs that enable them to grow the food to feed their families but also to become successful commercial farmers. The State of Food and Agriculture 2011 demonstrated that just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent.

The fertilizer industry is weary of the need to bridge the gender yield gap and is looking for innovative solutions to facilitate women farmers’ access to key inputs, in particular to fertilizers.. One such example comes from Turkey, where a fertilizer company adjusted its fertilizer packaging to a lower weight so that women could more easily transport the bags uphill to reach their field.

In the Black Sea region, where tea plants are grown, the majority of agricultural workers are women. Tea plants are cultivated on the steep slopes of hills, up which it is very difficult to carry heavy items such as fertilizer bags. Fertilizer bags of 50 kilos were packaged and sold in that region.  In 2010, the producer acknowledged the difficulty this posed for women rural workers and designed a system for delivering CAN (calcium ammonium nitrate) and the most commonly used compound fertilizer (25.5.10) in 25 kg bags to help women farmers by lightening their load.

This change was not easy to implement. Everything from the design of the bag to the bag production line, as well as loading/unloading mechanisms, needed to be changed and required a significant invesment. However, the initiative had an immediate quantifiable positive influence on women farmers’ working conditionsand productivity.


As research indicated, women farmers are less productive only because they don’t have access to the same resources (capital, tools, products and services) as their male counterpart. Business solutions can be developed to create this access, in particular through innovative approaches tailored to address the specific needs of women farmers.


For this reason, the fertilizer industry is supportive of SDGs that have a built-in private sector contribution and that focus on facilitating smallholder agriculture, especially in the case of women who grow as much as 80 percent  of the crops in developing areas. 

Kiriaki Arali Orpinel Espino Tibúame, Asociación Civil, Mexico
Kiriaki Arali

1. Si pudiera hacer una intervención en el evento paralelo sobre la mujer rural en el 8º Grupo de Trabajo abierto en Nueva York, ¿de qué se trataría ?

La Soberania Alimentaria solo se dará con el EBDH (Enfoque Basado en Derechos Humanos) y además debiera incluirse un espacio de investigación porque no podemos seguir implementando una sola propuesta para todas las mujeres como si iguales fueramos.

En la Sierra Tarahumara el espacio femenino de propiedad sobre su territorio, chivas, aguajes, palabra es muy rico y diferente a otras mujeres, a otras culturas.

Además de hablar de soberanía alimentaria con EBDH es necesario agregar la INTERCULTURALIDAD. Es necesario conocer -aunque solo sea un poco- las particularidades culturales de cada territorio donde pensamos incidir, de otra manera será proyecto y dinero invertido en la corriente de un río.

2. Las mujeres rurales son a menudo descritas como importantes agentes de cambio en los debates sobre los objetivos de desarrollo sostenible. ¿En qué medida el logro de la seguridad alimentaria y nutricional de las mujeres rurales ayuda a acelerar el desarrollo sostenible?

Ciertamente que las mujeres seguimos siendo las economas de la familia, en nuestras manos se encuentra la administración de los recursos con que cuenta cada familia. En nuestras manos también se encuentra hacer rendir lo poco o mucho que se coseche.

Las mujeres siempre seremos innovadoras y tomaremos de lo que llegue a nuestras manos, lo mejor para nuestra familia y así es como vamos modernizando nuestra tradición, siempre activa, siempre actual. 

Si se plantean acciones o proyectos de nutrición debiera tomarse en cuenta, primero y antes que nada, el qué dicen las mujeres?... En la Sierra Tarahumara cuando uno le pregunta a los hombres sobre las necesidades de su familia, de su pueblo, hablan de que necesitan despensas, lámina para los techos de sus hogares y arreglo de caminos, ¿las mujeres?, las mujeres hablan de tener agua cerca de su casa para beber, lavar ropa, beban los animales y regar un huerto... Para eso necesitan agua cerca de su casa. La segunda solicitud es semillas de garbanzo, lenteja, chícharo, haba, fríjol, maíz... pero semillas buenas que se puedan juntar en la cosecha de nueva cuenta y no estar dependiendo de comprarlas fuera porque solo sirven para una siembra, algunas de ellas sueñan con arbolitos de manzana, durazno, peras o naranja cerca de casa. Las mujeres tienen claro que necesitan para mejorar la nutrición de ellas y toda su familia, solo es cuestión de hacer la pregunta correcta y escuchar la respuesta.

3. De los muchos datos o estadísticas registradas sobre las mujeres rurales, ¿cuál considera que es el más revelador?

Que no sabemos nada sobre su calidad étnica, que no sabemos nada sobre sus culturas, siguen siendo datos homogéneos en su mayoría de informes.

Gracias por su atención.


Kiriaki Orpinel Espino