FSN Forum

DISCUSSION No. 142   •   FSN Forum digest No. 1308

Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts

until 6 August

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FSN Forum website www.fao.org/fsnforum


Dear Members,

The online discussion Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts keeps attracting comments, and we are happy to provide you with an update today.

Participants from all over the world are discussing the situation of rural women in their countries. In addition, they are exchanging ideas on what should be done to achieve lasting improvements in the quality of life of these women and their families, often commenting on each other's posts.

To read the contributions in full and for the introduction to the topic, please refer to the FSN Forum website in English, French or Spanish.

Please send your comments to FSN-moderator@fao.org or post them online upon registration.

We hope you will keep sending us your valuable input on this important topic!

Your FSN Forum team


iconKanchan Lama, WOCAN, Nepal

Kanchan discusses constraints Nepalese women face in accessing inputs and services, and in being autonomous in making decisions. She also discusses the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion Strategy that has been developed to mainstream gender equality issues in the National Agricultural Development Strategy, and what needs to be done further to give women farmers the attention they deserve. Furthermore, she shares a story about a Nepalese indigenous woman who, encouraged by a female extension worker, has been able to successfully adopt an improved rice variety, leading to higher productivity and an improved relationship with her family, which initially strongly resisted the idea.  

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iconMahtab S. Bamji, Dangoria Charitable Trust, India

Mahtab stresses that the gender-specific roles where women lose out are deeply entrenched in the mind-set of both women and men. She illustrates this by referring to an experience she had at a primary school: talking with the girls revealed that these girls themselves believed it to be “normal” that they had to carry out household tasks and that their brothers were not asked to do so. Changing this mind-set requires including the subject of gender equality in school curricula.

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iconMuhammad Raza, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan

Muhammad argues that among the reasons why agriculture is underperforming in many developing countries, is the fact that women lack access to the resources and opportunities they need to make the most productive use of their time.

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iconRieky Stuart, Canada

Rieky points out that one of the issues that has not yet been raised, is the difficulty of entrepreneurship in general, and farm entrepreneurship in particular. Women may face additional challenges in lacking mobility to access more distant markets and having less ability to re-allocate or postpone household and care work. Women’s enterprises may need additional support in terms of local, timely availability of inputs, and processing and marketing support.

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iconAtika Marouf, Seed Development Project, Sudan

In her second contribution to the discussion, Atika stresses that at the institutional level, project staff should be mobilized to promote gender mainstreaming in policy and programme implementation. At the community level, women need to be trained in business skills in order to be prepared for engaging with the private sector.

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iconCathy Farnworth, Pandia Consulting, Germany

Cathy refers to her research that focuses on Nepal, which suggests that in the surveyed community some of the strongest women innovators have secured the support of their extended family. Conversely, single women without extended family support networks may not benefit from support networks and the material resources associated with these, and thus find it harder to maintain innovatory practice. Furthermore, in responding to the comments by Nancy McCarthy, she shares the abstract of a forthcoming paper on the potential of household methodologies for improving intra-household cooperation.

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iconHuda Abouh, World Food Programme, Sudan

Huda highlights that people working in communities, community leaders and local authorities should focus on social and behaviour change communication.

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iconLibor Stloukal, FAO, Italy

In his first contribution, Libor provides feedback on behalf of the gender team in FAO, and shares a research paper published by FAO and the World Bank which assesses available evidence regarding the feminization of agriculture. He argues that seemingly, women’s growing labour force participation in agriculture does not necessarily translate into an improvement in their well-being. Further research is needed to understand under what conditions women’s expanding roles in agriculture actually lead to welfare improvements and a greater gender equality in access to resources and human capital.

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Download the paper

In his second contribution, Libor stresses the important role of agricultural policies in closing the gender gap in rural societies. He outlines a number of actions to be undertaken in order to make agricultural policies work for women farmers, such as ensuring that agricultural policy makers are mandated to address rural gender inequalities. Furthermore, he discusses the FAO Gender in Agricultural Policies Assessment Tool, which aims to help national stakeholders understand how agricultural policies affect rural women and what kind of policy action may be needed to make existing policies more gender sensitive.

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iconAndrea Sánchez Enciso, FAO, Italy

On behalf of the FAO Dimitra team, Andrea shares information on the FAO Dimitra Clubs, which has adopted an approach based on gender equality and community mobilization in order to facilitate rural people’s empowerment. The Clubs have particularly boosted the self-esteem and leadership of rural women and encouraged more equitable relations between women and men. Andrea argues that transformative change can be achieved if interventions are not solely focused on empowering women economically, but also aim to trigger processes of change that gradually lead to changes in social norms impeding women to progress on an equal foot as men.

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iconSofie Isenberg, FAO, Italy

According to Sofie, efforts to empower women often fail due to assumptions about women’s needs that do not take into consideration their situation or their own agency and preferences. Responding to Ekaterine Gurgenidze’s earlier question of how we can help rural women gain self-respect and let them understand their importance, she reiterates “an often-cited but rarely implemented solution: include rural women in the conversation”. Referring to Andrea’s contribution on the FAO Dimitra project, Sofie underlines that the Dimitra Clubs are a rare example of the radical potential benefits of putting communication at the centre of efforts to empower women.

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iconSosan Aziz, Economic Transformation Initiative Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan

Sosan points out that the context of rural livelihoods has significantly changed during the past twenty years. While female farmers were uneducated twenty years ago, the current generation of women farmers consists of educated youth, which is interested in entrepreneurial activities. Different and innovative approaches will be needed to cater for both groups of women.

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