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African parliamentarians push for women's empowerment as a means to improve food security

@FAO Rwanda

19/07/2019 - 

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), and the Rwandan Parliament met in Kigali, Rwanda from 16 -19 July 2019, for a weeklong learning exchange which focused on mainstreaming gender into agriculture and strategies to improve food security.

The week featured a two-day capacity building workshop, designed to support parliamentarians in developing effective gender-responsive policies and legislation, and also included a high-level policy dialogue and field visits to Rwandan cooperatives devoted to soya bean and coffee production. Representatives of civil society organization representatives, intergovernmental organizations, think tanks, and the media also participated. 

The exchange was an initiative of the ECOWAS Network of Parliamentarians on Gender Equality and Investments in Agriculture and Food Security, launched in December 2018 in Abuja, Nigeria, with the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), and Oxfam. The ECOWAS Network ensures a productive forum for continued exchange across national and regional parliaments, as well as other stakeholder groups, offering its members the opportunity to share examples of legislative and regulatory best practices and to brainstorm new approaches that can be adapted to local circumstances and needs.

While public and private investment in the agricultural sector is a vital component to achieving sustainable development objectives, it must be done in a manner that is responsible and inclusive so as not to exacerbate or perpetuate existing inequalities. Women make up nearly half of the African continent’s agricultural labour force, but lack the same level of benefits and opportunities as men.

“Women perform all kinds of tasks in rural settings and this contribution to the rural economy is often underestimated and not remunerated,” said Abdoulaye Villan, the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Network, during the opening session. “They manage natural resources, adapted to climate change, and preserve biodiversity, while ensuring nutritional security and agricultural productivity.”

Following the week, the ECOWAS Network of Parliamentarians committed itself to pursuing the following recommendations, focusing on improving food security through support for women’s economic and political empowerment:

Voice and decision-making power. The representation of women at all decision-making levels in politics and government is decisive for making change happen. This participation of women in high-level positions needs to be ensured in all sectors, including agriculture and land. This should also cover the private sector, including financial institutions.

It is essential to foster women’s participation and leadership in FBO and cooperatives in mixed and women-only organizations. This will help to access inputs, productive resources, and services, such as financial services. Being organized will allow members of these organizations, including women, to increase their bargaining and contractual power as business partners and market actors.

Land laws and policies. Land is essential for agriculture production and food security. In this light, policies and land-related laws should be reviewed with a gender lens and relevant action taken so that land tenure security improves. Within this context, in order to promote women’s land rights, ECOWAS parliamentarians commit to this objective, including through oversight of SDG 5.a.2 on women’s legal land rights.

We will also endeavor to achieve the harmonization of customary and statutory land laws and other related legal and regulatory instruments.

Budget. We recognize the importance of gender-responsive budgeting for ensuring the translation of our commitments into action.

Responsible investment. Fostering inclusive, responsible investment from both public and private actors is vital for realizing the potential of countries’ agricultural sectors. This investment also has an important gender component, which must be acknowledged, recognized, and supported.

Trade and value chains. Promoting value addition of primary products of female farmers will help enable their participation and improve their competitiveness at national, regional, and international markets. It will drive greater investments into the necessary infrastructure to bring these products to market, along with creating employment in high value-added jobs and maintaining this employment in the longer term.

Continued exchanges and capacity development. This partnership with Rwandan parliamentarians should be formalized with the support of IISD, FAO and Oxfam.

Done on July 18, 2019 – Kigali, Rwanda