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Policy Support and Governance
©Sebastian Liste/NOOR for FAO


Women constitute 45 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. They play a central role in rural economies, natural resource management and food production, processing, conservation and marketing. Rural women ensure food security, nutrition and well-being for their families and communities.

Empowering women and achieving gender equality.

Compared to men, rural women often experience greater constraints in access to resources, services and opportunities. The “gender gap” prevents women from reaching their full potential, which undermines agricultural and rural development.

FAO is working with member states and partners in the design and implementation of gender-equitable laws, policies and programmes. Priority policy actions include: increasing women’s access to and control over land and other productive resources, decent jobs, market opportunities, social protection and rural services; investing in labour-saving, productivity-enhancing technologies; and strengthening women’s leadership and voice in their households and communities, as well as in policy processes.

Key policy messages

  • Agricultural policies that contribute to closing the gender gap in access to assets, resources, services and opportunities represent one of the most effective approaches to combat rural poverty, improve agriculture, and promote sustainable and equitable rural development.
  • Empowering rural women to participate fully in household and community decision-making translates into improved well-being and better prospects for their children and families, thereby fuelling future economic growth. Policies should support women to participate equally with men in rural organizations and institutions, as decision makers and in shaping laws, policies and programmes.
  • Women increasingly supply national and international agricultural markets with high-value produce. However compared to men, women farmers and entrepreneurs face greater disadvantages, such as lower mobility and less opportunities for training, market information and related services. Policies need to increase women’s participation in agri-food value chains and ensure that they can equally benefit from both local and export markets, and agricultural enterprises.
  • Women are more likely than men to perform multiple tasks, combining income-generating work as farmers with unpaid household responsibilities, such as cooking, collecting fuel wood and water, and caring for children and the elderly. This limits their ability to take advantage of new opportunities. Policies need to invest in labour-saving and productivity-enhancing technologies and infrastructure, to free women’s time for more productive activities.
  • Investing in women is critical to achieve all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by the year 2030. Many SDG targets, and specifically the Goal 5, recognize gender equality and women’s empowerment both as the objective and the solution to the sustainability challenges we face globally. Development actions must “leave no one behind” and be socially inclusive and just.

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