FSN Forum

DISCUSSION No. 142   •   FSN Forum digest No. 1311

Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts

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Dear Members,

The online discussion Rural women: striving for gender transformative impacts is coming to a close. We have been happy to receive many new comments over the last days, please find them summarized below.

We also share with you the closing message from Clare Bishop, the facilitator of the discussion. Together with Clare we would like to thank you for your active participation, which has made this a very fruitful exchange.

The discussion outcomes will inform the Expert Group Meeting on rural women organized by UN Women in September this year. The report of this Meeting will then serve as one of the key background documents for the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.

For those who still wish to send comments, we are happy to accept late contributions until Friday 11 August. Please post them online or send them to FSN-moderator@fao.org.

You can find a full overview of the discussion on the FSN Forum website, where you can also download the proceedings document.

We hope you have enjoyed this exchange!

Your FSN Forum team

Clare Bishop, facilitator of the discussion

Dear contributors and followers,

Thank you all for your contributions during the last three weeks which have resulted in a rich discussion.

There have been 66 individual contributors, representing over 30 countries and a mixture of organisations, multilateral and bilateral agencies, NGOs, research institutes, colleges and universities. It has been encouraging to see so many men actively engaged in the discussion – accounting for 25% of the total contributors – because this is the path to gender transformative impacts. A detailed review of the proceedings will be prepared over the coming weeks. The principal findings will be discussed at an Expert Group Meeting which will be held in Rome in September, as part of the preparatory activities for the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018.

Consequently, in this short piece, I have decided to focus on the inter-play between new opportunities and the constraints imposed by social norms. One such example is male outmigration. The movement of men away from rural areas in search of employment, and many rural women becoming the primary farmer, could be seen as an opportunity to create space for women to become more involved in economic activities and redefine their role in the agriculture sector. This may take place in the short-term, as women step in to fill the gap left by their male counterparts – partly out of necessity but partly taking advantage of the opportunity. They get involved in new areas of business, engage with the market and broaden their networks and horizons. But in the longer term, their dreams and professional aspirations risk to be reined in by persistent social norms. Their new behaviour may be considered to be unacceptable, colliding with the idea that a women’s place should be in the home, that they should not be making independent decisions, etc.

A major thread throughout this discussion has been the recognition of the need to address the root causes of gender inequalities in order to achieve sustainable development. Behaviour change, based on a full understanding of the meaning of gender equality - of a just and equal world for all - is crucial. It has been exciting to read of so many different approaches being used to stimulate gender transformative change at the individual, household and community levels. These will be explored in more detail in the follow-up actions.

Once again, thank you for your contributions. There is still time to post contributions or to send them to FSN-moderator@fao.org by Friday 11 August; after that date, the discussion will be closed.

We look forward to sharing the synthesis report with you in due course.

Clare Bishop


iconNitya Rao, School of International Development and LANSA, India

Nitya stresses that we do not give adequate attention to the strategies women use to survive. She also discusses the increase in the number of female-headed households in Africa and its implications.

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iconMahesh Chander, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, India

In his first contribution for this digest, Mahesh argues that movies can and should play a powerful role in women’s empowerment and shares some resources on this issue.

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In his second comment, Mahesh underlines the importance of recognizing women as farmers and not just agricultural labourers, and of providing them with access to land.

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iconQueen Katembu, FAO, Kenya

Queen posts a case study of a project implemented by FAO in collaboration with ActionAid Kenya focusing on generating GIS resource maps, and discusses the impact this project has had on the lives of rural women.

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iconDineshkumar Singh, TATA Consultancy Services, India

Dineshkumar introduces the mKRISHI initiative which is concerned with digital innovation for rural people, and explains how a participatory environment was created and women were engaged in the context of this project.

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iconBrad Wilson, United States of America

Brad shares an article he wrote on gender roles on farms in Iowa, USA, from the 1950s to today.

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iconUNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, Germany

The contribution from the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning touches upon a variety of aspects, such as: 1) the diverse contexts in which rural women find themselves; 2) entrepreneurship, sustainable livelihoods and the relevance of education for women's empowerment; 3) access to information and ICTs and empowerment, and 4) the question of how deeply rooted gender norms can be changed.

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iconEmily Janoch, CARE, United States of America

Emily tells us about the experiences of CARE Ethiopia, which  uses "Social Analysis and Action", a technique for engaging men and strengthening women’s wellbeing in the community.

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iconSzilvia Lehel, Italy

In Szilvia’s view, the issue of climate change merits special attention, and she focuses on the gender-climate change-agriculture nexus in responding to the three discussion questions.

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iconSubhalakshmi Nandi, UN Women, India

Subhalakshmi has concrete ideas on how approaches should be changed in order to achieve gender transformative impacts, and expands on UN Women's work in India.

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iconAnke Stock, Women Engage for a Common Future, Germany

Anke responds to all the discussion questions, and stresses that adopting the 2030 Agenda would significantly impact rural women’s empowerment.

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iconRwendeire Peniel, Climate Smart Agriculture Network, Uganda

Rwendeire believes that using a household approach including men, women and children will promote gender transformative impacts.

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iconTania Sharmin, CARE, Bangladesh

Tania highlights that in order to address rural women's challenges, transforming gender norms and engaging men to change the way women can act in the household and community is key. She illustrates her point by using practical examples.   

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iconJipara Turmamatova, UN Women, Kyrgyzstan

In her second contribution to the discussion, Jipara shares further insights from Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment in Kyrgyzstan, a joint programme implemented by UN Women, FAO, IFAD and WFP aiming to address the multiple challenges faced by rural women in an integrated manner.

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iconAlok Shrestha, HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation Nepal, Nepal

Alok describes two initiatives implemented in a remote mountainous region of Nepal. One initiative concerns the Nutrition in Mountain Agro-Ecosystems project, which also comprised a "school nutrition garden" which has been rather effective in behavior change towards agriculture and nutrition, especially among women.

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iconTaibat Moji Yusuf, Kwara State University, Nigeria

Taibat elaborates on the situation of rural women in Nigeria and focuses on concrete opportunities for (improving) initiatives on various administrative levels.  

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iconMuthoni Nguthi, Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN), Kenya

Muthoni provides a contribution from the Kenyan Chapter of CSAYN. The submission addresses all the discussion questions, describing the challenges of rural women and how they have and have not been addressed, and stressing the need for strategies that will directly target cultural norms and informal institutions.

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iconSiyanbola Omitoyin, University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Siyanbola points to the issues rural women in Nigeria are facing, which mainly include socio-cultural constraints.

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iconMaria Lee, WOCAN, France

Maria outlines the problems rural women are facing in Nepal. Furthermore, she argues that what is lacking is a robust means of measuring outcomes of projects and policies to improve design and implementation, and points out that WOCAN has developed the "W+ Standard" to address these gaps.

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iconSamuel Opoku Gyamfi, Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, Morocco

Samuel underlines the role of education in achieving gender equality, and thinks that modules on gender equality should be integrated in the curricula from primary school on.

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iconLeocadia Muzah, GIZ, Zimbabwe

Leocadia discusses two strategies that have been used in trying to close the gender gap, focusing on women's empowerment and gender and development; she provides arguments in favour of the latter.

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iconAnnelise Thim, OECD, France

Annelise writes from the OECD Development Centre which is currently working on the update of the Social Institutions and Gender Index, a cross-country measure of discriminatory social institutions that hold back women and girls from realising their rights.

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iconAlejandra Safa Barraza, Valentina Franchi and Nozomi Ide, FAO, Italy

Alejandra, Valentina and Nozomi underline the need to adopt an holistic approach, referring to FAO's guiding framework "Developing gender-sensitive value chains" which proposes two categories of analysis: access to resources and power and agency.

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iconAbdul-Aziz Seidu Jawula, CSAYN Ghana, Ghana

According to Abdul-Aziz, a key problem is the neglect of rural communities by development actors. Challenges of rural communities should be better understood and addressed by means of providing capacity building training to community-based organizations.

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iconAnja Rabezanahary, IFAD, Italy

Anja shares information on IFAD's Gender Action Learning System (GALS), which has been developed to tackle root causes of inequalities and social exclusion with a focus on gender justice.

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iconFarming First, United Kingdom

Farming First provides the link to the infographic "the female face of farming".

Access the infographic

iconTaylor Tondelli, FAO, Italy

Taylor stresses that in the forestry sector, one of women's biggest challenges is their limited access to and control over land. He shares an example from the Foundation for Community Initiatives, which has adopted grass-roots approaches in aiming to transform customary practices.

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iconKennedy Phiri, Zambia

Kennedy highlights that marginalization and disempowerment of women often happen through narratives that people and communities use, and that this issue deserves more attention.

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