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November 2002

Rural women: crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty

Side Event Report

World Food Summit: five years later
10-13 June 2002

Part 2 of 2

Creating the Future: building on the present, Vandana Shiva, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, India7

"We always talk of rural women as women needing patronage. I think it is time we started to recognize that they are the reservoirs of the knowledge, the ethics, the politics and the economics that are needed for the future".

20 years ago, Vandana Shiva, founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India with the aim to safeguard and conserve biodiversity and to develop alternatives to centralised systems of monoculture in forestry, agriculture and fisheries. Since then, she has continued to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times, both as a researcher, activist, and writer.
Originally trained as a Physicist, Dr Shiva's academic and research contributions have increasingly focussed on the crossroads between women's and human rights and ecology. Her thinking is captured in numerous books and articles, most recently in the widely distributed book Water Wars.
What stands out in particular with Dr Shiva's engagement is the strong link between research and action. She has set up educational centres, worked with farmers to explain trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS), and founded several organizations and movements to protect biological diversity; and campaigned world-wide against genetic engineering. Dr. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs such as the International Forum on Globalisation, Women's Environment and Development Organisation and Third World Network. Dr. Shiva has received many international and national awards, including the 1993 Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award). She has also been awarded by the ASIA WEEK Magazine as one of the top five most powerful persons in Asia, and she has been recognised as one of the 50 most powerful ecologists of our times.

"I want to congratulate the Gender and Population Division for joining up with the Swedish Government to take this initiative. I was just thinking what kind of declaration would have come out, if it had been left to a room like this.

My personal life was changed dramatically by working with and fighting with rural women in the high Himalaya to defend the natural forests during the early days of the Chipko movement, which was the movement of women coming out to embrace the trees, saying these are our lives - without our forests our livelihoods and our lives' securities are destroyed. If I have given up the practice of physics and my passion and obsession with quantum theory, it is because rural women became my teachers, they became my leaders. That is why I personally get a little restless, when we always talk of rural women as women needing patronage. I think it is time we started to recognize that they are the reservoirs of the knowledge, the ethics, the politics and the economics that is needed for the future. When I think of building the future and creating the future, on the basis of the present; the present is a very tragic and very brutal present.

We had the President of Rwanda, from a society that went through one of the worst genocides - but every society is on the verge of genocide, my own country, one of the centres of compassionate faiths - it gifted compassion to the world, is in the bowl of violence. I think some of this violence is linked to the way we have created political, economic, technological systems that did not take guidance from women in general and rural women in particular. We would have built very different systems and we need to build those different systems because we do not move on a very fast track to shift gears. The very survival of our species, I think, is at stake.

We are here for the Food Summit, five years after, and the discussion continues about feeding the world, but I think it is time to take stock of who really feeds the world. I think one and a half decades ago I did a report for the FAO on how most farmers of the world and in India are women. Women are not only more in number; they produce more, using fewer resources. We are in a period where we have to address the triple crises of a shrinking resource base, higher levels of people excluded from rights and larger numbers on this planet and that is why we have growing hunger. As a scientist, I know if you have got to stretch fewer resources further, you start to use fewer resources to produce more.

All our technological systems that have been evolved in the last twenty to thirty years, for food and farming, have been systems that have been brilliant at wasting natural resources, wasting people, while creating a tremendous economy for poisons and fossil fuels and everything else. We have been smart at creating technologies that are a threat to the planet and displace people.

I have done studies linking the dispensability of rural women to some of these technologies. In India you can just do a map and do an overlay of the regions where there is the highest practice of female foeticide, and you can have a one to one correlation with the highest utilization of technologies that dispense with women; that do not recognize their contribution to farming or their knowledge of alternative systems of farming. In these last 15 years, as I learn and work with rural women in India, I have learnt one thing, that the only way the world will be fed is if our biodiversity is preserved; not only because it is necessary for ecological security, but, in fact, it is the only way to produce more food.

One reason we did not see that is because of what I have called 'monocultures of the mind'. You can reduce the base of the world food supply to two or three crops. It used to be wheat and rice and corn, now it is becoming Soya bean - it is like without Soya bean we can not survive. But this displacement of the hundreds and thousands of crop species in thousands of varieties is actually shrinking our output per acre and increasing the resource input per acre. We are creating water stress; we are creating land stress and we are destroying our biodiversity because we adopted, what I call, patriarchal categories of assessing "more". Women's assessment of what is "more" is closer to the ground. It is closer to figuring out how to stretch that little, half acre, one acre of land, how to stretch every plant that grows in companionship.

Women's models of agriculture are based on maximising biodiversity intensification, not chemical intensification, and through biodiversity intensification so much of the data that is available has been generated by the FAO itself: how small biodiverse farms produce thousands of times more food than large, industrial monocultures. In Java, small farmers cultivate 607 species in their home gardens with an overall species diversity comparable to natural deciduous forests in the tropics. In the Chiapas the entire agriculture system was destroyed because they said their corn production was too little, but women in the Chiapas do not just produce corn; they grow squashes and fruits and, per acre, 20 tons of food is produced in the amazing biodiversity of the small farms, where women's knowledge is the main input.

For me personally, I sometimes find it amusing, it is like a joke being played on women and humanity. The golden rice story is my favourite. Golden rice has been much discussed here. It is actually one of the examples of why the declaration, that has come out of this Summit, is so heavy in putting its hopes on bio-technology. I notice there is not one word in the declaration, not once has biodiversity been mentioned. Now biodiversity is not raw nature. Biodiversity is women's knowledge, embodied in the species that grow on our farms, in our forests, in our rivers and, there is no biodiversity that is not embodied cultural diversity, embodied knowledge. But just as women are turned into the second sex - into raw material - their knowledge is turned into raw material, or ignored. Now, Indian women use about 250 kinds of greens, some of them producing 14.000 micrograms per 100 grams of food. I have just done a collection through the movement we have built called Navdanya of a Red Rice in the high Himalaya - much more iron and huge quantities of beta-carotene (vitamin A). Women's knowledge has already given us the vitamin A that billions of dollars of expenditure will put into rice for creating Golden Rice. It is because there is a possibility to shut out that knowledge, along with the shutting out of the biodiversity, it becomes possible to then think of Golden Rice and bio-technology and the corporate monopolies that go with it, as the only way that the world will be fed.

The declaration has talked about being committed to study, share and facilitate the responsible use of bio-technology in addressing development needs. It would be wonderful if the divisions here, working on sustainability and on gender, would undertake a serious study of the nutritional value of new varieties as compared to that of local and traditional agro-biodiversity managed by women farmers8. We would then basically have an honest base of where we are really gaining when we say we have got a new way of providing vitamins to the poor of the third world. This honest study also needs to be done in partnership with the risks that go with some of the new technologies: risks of genetic pollution in the homeland of corn in the Mexico, risks of contamination of our food, the big Starlink scandal in the United States, where cattle-feed could not be separated from the human food chain in corn, and as we move into the next generation of genetic engineering, with vaccines built into it, with "contraceptive corn". Can you imagine "contraceptive corn" escaping through genetic pollution? We will have sterilization on a large scale when we did not intend to.

There are two related issues when we become blind to women's knowledge and biodiversity that is the embodiment of that knowledge. The first is new property rights' regimes. So much has been said about increasing women's access to resources. Usually that discussion stops with land. Sometimes it goes on to water. But we often forget there are new property rights being created to biodiversity, to genetic resources through intellectual property rights - through the trade-related intellectual property rights. The movement that I am part of, which is called 'Diverse women for Diversity' has a very clear sense of where we need to go in the future, in terms of the review of some of these assumptions that are embodied in TRIPS. I really read TRIPS as a patriarchal document that suffers the patriarchal illusion of invention through contact. The false claim to invention then leads to ownership of life, piracy of indigenous knowledge, and the denial of the very women who have done the collective, cumulative innovation over centuries, to the resources that they have shaped and used and gifted for future generations.

We believe biodiversity is a gift of nature. We have used our biodiversity and knowledge co-operating with other life forms. We have created and sustained the basic knowledge which meets our societies' need for food, health, clothing and shelter. Our knowledge is now being pirated and locked up in patents. Our relationship with the earth and all its beings is ruptured and poisoned. Our community rights are being destroyed. Biodiversity, deprived of its local roots and rights, is being turned into a commodity. In the face of corporate take-over, such defence and recreation of community rights require solidarity, co-operation between people and between species. We call upon Governments to abolish patents on life and recognize community rights and strengthen the convention on biological diversity for this purpose.

Much has been talked about the road from Rome to Johannesburg. But there is one other stop beyond where some of these incomplete agendas will need to be carried. Next year will be the next ministerial of the World Trade Organization in Cancun, in Mexico and I think there are three major issues in the W.T.O. that need to be revisited from a gender perspective. The first are paradigms of technology and I think we need to have far more input from women, especially rural women, about really productive technologies, technologies that minimize vulnerability and risk, while producing more for human need. We also need to revisit property rights in life. We need to revisit the trade system and the trade paradigm itself, because it's a trade system that privileges corporations, while more and more women and children are pushed to deep marginalization.

I have visited villages in India in the last two or three years, as food scarcity has started to hit areas where there never was food scarcity, partly because of the kind of terms of trade, between rural and urban areas, between food and inputs. In so many places there are homes, where women have been sold, where children have been sold. There are regions in India where farmers are committing suicide, because the costs of production have risen so high. New seeds, pesticides and herbicides are creating such deep debt for farmers, that farmers drink the poison to commit suicide, sell themselves, sell their kidneys, sell their children, and sell their wives. A lot of the sexual trafficking around the world is related to a deep economic crisis, an economic crisis in which we do look at the incomes, but we do not look at the cost. We do not look at the cost that nature paid, the price that women paid, the price that households paid.

Minister Winberg talked about women eating last and least. We've built an economy in which women are the remainder. I think we need to build an economy and change the terms of trade, so that food security centred on women and households becomes the design for the global economy and markets get the leftovers, global markets get the remainder - not the women. We need to turn things around and this needs to be turned around particularly because, as the cover story of Terra Viva today talks, we have now got an even more asymmetric world order in which 20 billion U.S. dollars of subsidies will distort prices further, undercut women's labour and its value, wipe women out as producers, as artificially cheap commodities are dumped on third world societies, and wipe out the possibility of women shaping the future on the basis of sustainability, on the basis of sharing and on the basis of looking forward, not just to the next generation, but looking forward all the way to the seventh generation as is the ethics in my society and in the indigenous societies in the Americas.

That seventh generation logic, based on serious sustainability, is the road from Rome to Johannesburg and beyond and being part of a movement, I do get disappointed when leaders do not take their full responsibility. I do get disappointed when, in absentia, they influence outcomes without caring about either the people of the world, the women of the world, or the future generations, but that disappointment does not stop us from building our alternatives, celebrating our lives and celebrating the leadership of rural women. That is the leadership we really need, not the pseudo leadership that is not showing us the way to the future and to a secure world for all.

Thank you."

Open dialogue9

1. Stefania Prestigiacomo, Minister of Equal Opportunities, Italy
"The challenge of the Summit in terms of the role of rural women and the fight against hunger means shifting from nice sounding words to facts and action, and I believe this is the message we have to get across to Johannesburg. The Millennium Declaration and CEDAW are two of the international instruments we have to remove all forms of discrimination women face. There are too many obstacles in the way for women to achieve full participation. Women have difficulties getting access to land and property rights; only men have property rights. Sometimes when a husband dies, his wife who is left behind does not have any rights left. It is very important for women to be helped to overcome these hurdles. Bangladesh has made success based on trust in women, but trust is not enough. Women must be considered as a subject. In Niger, during the difficult war years, we had positive action where women were selected to be educated in educational centres. Women need adequate training, et cetera, to achieve the goal of providing food for the population. If not, under-nourishment and death can be the consequence. War also deprives women and men. We need development strategies to bridge the gulf and discrepancy between women and men. The international community plays a role, and we should enhance productivity of women, and encourage LIFDCs and FAO to focus on right standards and cultural standards, because all this can represent hurdles. A yardstick should also be to remove social and cultural discrimination of women that are obstacles to development. Italy plays a crucial role in southern Mediterranean. Men are immigrating and women are left behind to till the land. We want to encourage all initiatives that put women on our planet on an equal footing."

2. Kirsten Vaerdal, President of the Norwegian Farmers' Union
"The key for a successful fight against hunger is organized farmers and farmers' unions. Unions will enable farmers' voices to be heard in the society, and they should be involved in strategies. I will as strong as I can give priority to organization building, as my colleague from Guatemala also underlined. I have been the president of IFAP (International Federation of Agricultural Producers) and we want to encourage the collaboration with FAO."

3. Caroline Trapp, President of the Federation of Swedish Farmers
"I am maybe the second woman to chair a national farmers' union. The importance of organizing women farmers and their requests for power in society is lacking from the Declaration. The Swedish Farmers' Union has been successful in many areas, and we can share our experience with other people. As in the food chain, the women farmers or labourers are often the weakest element in the agricultural production chain. This is reflected in the minimum share of the income that they receive. The income does not reach the men and women of the grassroots."

4. Jeanne Ebanba Boboto, Ministry of Social Affaires, Democratic Republic of Congo
"I have a suggestion on the Message, especially with regard to women. Rural women have to be trained. We are here to talk about how to combat hunger, but in Africa we have warfare which is an underlying cause of poverty. We are fighting against other people and also against hunger. Civil strife does not enhance the struggle against hunger. We must understand that rural women represent a reservoir."

5. Shawna Shona Larson, Alaska Community Action on Toxics
"Food issues are also affecting us in the Arctic. In Alaska we have food, but toxics contaminate our food, like PCBs and other pesticides that are found in the food web and in ourselves. As indigenous women, we turn to our elders for advice. They tell us they never before saw tumours on the fish and other animals. We are afraid to eat the very foods that have sustained us from the beginning of time. We are concerned about toxics blowing in to us and contaminating our water. Everywhere there is cancer, and not only in us, but also in our animals. Without our culture and traditional food, we are indeed impoverished. We cannot eat indigenous foods, but are pushed to marketed food, containing contaminants as well. I have seen FAO's logo and I am here to demand healthy and safe food."

6. Lena Klevenås, Swedish Policy Group on Global Food Safety
"450 million people are waged agricultural workers. The majority of them are women, and they have marginal salaries, often as little as 1 dollar per day. Higher income is needed. Employment is central to the objective of poverty reduction. The waged agricultural workers should be recognized as an important group. The role of waged agricultural workers and their trade unions to global food security must be recognised. A new form of slavery is forming in Europe consisting of illegal immigrants working without decent wages for rich farmers, and they do not have the possibility to organize themselves in unions. The issue of waged agricultural workers, to increase their wages, securing women's rights and their rights to organize themselves in unions, should be incorporated in the Message or as a separate point."

7. Paola Ortensi, International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) and Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori
"It is true that most people in poor areas are women. We believe that women are the hope to overcome the first hurdle against hunger. Secondly, we need a strongly built bridge between women in industrialized countries and in LIFDCs. We need to network, and even if we are different, there are so much similarity and unity. We are stronger if we work on this together. We believe that many women can become farming business women. It is a man's world, but women can have a place in it."

8. Maryam Ammed Moustafa Mousa, Minister plenipotentiary for Agriculture, Egypt
"Rural women suffer from hunger and underdevelopment twice: first because she lives in a rural area and second because she is a woman. So we ask you to give more place for, and investment to, women in the development plans. Cultural change is urgently needed in order to ensure that all our programmes and process for women development will succeed and not fail. One way of doing this can be through scientific and study programmes for cultural change. Statistics and information about rural women are so poor, so without the power of information and statistics, we as women cannot plan or even change our world. There is an urgent need for legal change, because this is a main obstacle. And after all, we talk about the political dimension and the will for change."

9. Aichatou Foumkoye, Ministry of Social Development, Niger
"In Niger 95% of the rural women are involved in agricultural production. Agriculture is the most important sector in our country. Women from Niger work in average 16 hours a day. With limited means they achieve miracles. We have serious wind erosion, but women restore areas thanks to their networks and 18 million CFA. I want to congratulate the Italian government who have financed this project. I want to highlight that the battle against food insecurity can not be won without women, and we need to remove some obstacles. We must pay special attention to women's access and means of production. A written strategy will be delivered to the chair. We must acknowledge the talents of rural women, and they must themselves come and tell other women of their own experiences. This meeting shows women's talents and role. However, very few rural women are here. Next time more rural women should tell us of their experiences."

10. Katarina Lindahl, Swedish Association for Sexuality Education
"This is a discussion of the future and the youth should be mentioned in the message. There is a growing number of child headed households, this is often due to HIV/AIDS. They have limited food production, but they do not know how to do it. It is necessary to support young people, to give them skills for food production, and to support them in sexual reproductive rights so they can protect themselves against HIV/AIDS."

11. Rae Frampton, International Council of Women (ICW), New Zealand
"ICW has since 1888 worked to improve women's rights, nutrition and food security. We urge governments to support the campaign for Food for All. ICW small project fund has provided assistance to many countries, like support to small agricultural and horticulture projects and training projects. ICW made a presentation to the plenary."

12. Bongiwe Njobe, Director General, National Department of Agriculture, South Africa
"With respect to the message, I do not think it goes far enough. A lot of the language is historically correct, but new issues have also emerged and new language is therefore needed. Sustainable development and market access are essential and important issues for women. Agriculture and regional emphasis is in the text, but words like women and men alike should be changed. We can rather say common but differentiated responsibilities between men and women. My second point is that we must show that we have made positive strides. We should elevate examples of success and provide best examples. We will show younger women that it is worth being part of these struggles."

13. Alagie Kebbeh, President of the National Youth Association for Food Security, Gambia
"I strongly support the need to emphasize the younger generations. Youth is hardly present at this forum. My organization is here as a follow-up of an international youth forum. The bond between the mothers and the youth, and also the young women and youth, should not be forgotten. Rural young women have no right whatsoever in the compound, to ownership, inheritance, marriage, etc. Many therefore feel that they have to deliver a male child in that compound. Young women and youth role models are important. The youth is being marginalised and not listened to."

14. Julia Valenzuela, Member of the Congress of Peru
"The situation is deteriorating in rural areas. Poverty has increased from 60 to 70% in the last few years, and there are 2 million new poor people in the country. Violence is normally associated with wars. Violence is also pornography with children and trafficking in women and children. Food insecurity is also violence. Women and men should struggle for equality in the legal system, in our homes and in society, states and countries. Peru is struggling, and the rural people are abandoning the rural areas. We want rural women to live satisfactorily on the land. Measures should be taken to help countries to enable a worthy standard of living, including education and prevention."

15. Pablo Eyzaguirre, International Plant Genetic Resource Institute (IPGRI)
"My institute also believes biodiversity intensification is important. How do we intensify biodiversity? Our experience is to follow the spaces and niches that women create. It may be small crops which have all kinds of names. This biodiversity and these crops are women's patronage and not ours. The next step is to protect this biodiversity. One of the things we have experienced is that women are worried and ask if we improve the crops, will they then loose control? When IPGRI goes into an area we identify women's institutions and local institutions where they are in control, and then we can provide and build technology under their patronage. Suggestion to Message from Rome to Johannesburg, point 6: "Local institutions (formal and informal) that women have created to manage resources for livelihoods should be recognised and supported in development actions to enhance food production, biodiversity and quality."

16. Margotzata Piotrowska, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Poland
"Regulations exist to protect women's work and these are considered "privileges" of women. Women have family responsibilities and are afraid to loose their jobs, and men are often being hired instead. We have new government ministers of equal status of women and men, but Central and Eastern European countries are not aware of gender equality, and there are few organizations working with women's rights. There is still a lack of local partner initiatives between NGOs and local government. It is important that local government make sure that women are represented."

17. Mercy Karanja, Chief Executive, Kenya National Farmers Union
"We have to start from the grassroots, and incorporate women in the system and institutions that have been dominated by men. We must mainstream women into the movements to be partners in development and decision-makers. We must put down the paternalistic traditions. The kind of technologies that are geared towards farmers' inputs and outputs do not take women's situation into account."

18. Francesca Ronchi Proja, Permanent Representative to FAO, International Federation for Home Economics
"We must emphasize the role and importance of young people. We need to train and educate boys to also take responsibility and participate within the family. We must also make sure that girls are not discriminated against in education. We must emphasize the importance of education for the future generations."

19. Abigal Booth, Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN), Swedish Section
"FIAN is committed to the right to food. The states represented here at the WFS must agree to commit themselves to the right to food. To secure the right to food is a fundamental human right, and this is a major global effort to combat hunger and malnutrition. We will call on all states to make sure that they include a gender sensitive interpretation for this right to food."

20. Ulla-Maija Finskas, Perm. Representative of Finland to FAO in Rome
"In the Message from this side event we must make sure that it includes that women are the reservoir of knowledge and biodiversity."

21. Elva Azucena Paz, President, National Congress Agricultural Commission, Argentina
'Rural women are being trained to use their skills and earn money for their families. The high tariff barriers from the developed world take money away from social infrastructure. A recommendation is to divert one cent of each dollar to be invested in rural development and women."

22. Nafatoumata Traore, Assistance Director Ministry of Family, Women and Children, Cote d'Ivoire
"Women play a key role in food security. Women help organize cooperatives and they provide foods for the large towns. It is true in most countries that women are a vital element in producing food. To achieve the goal of this summit, any policy on agriculture and sustainable development must be based on the principles of equality and equity. Through international mobilisation and awareness-raising we can influence people and decision-makers. FAO, please strengthen the assistance to Cote d'Ivoire."

View of the participants and speakers at the meeting

23. Anthony Gonzales, International Indian Treaty Council, USA
"Food security is developing in a human rights approach that will add to the question of accountability. We are concerned with farming and biodiversity, and the excessive use of herbicides, pesticides and insecticide which in turn contaminate the soil and table water. Contaminated produce are liberally sold and encouraged in developing countries. In some areas in California cancer clusters are emerging due to continuous dumping of pesticides. We are concerned with the subsidies on commodity foods that are being dumped in some areas. The third comment is to recognize the negative impact of the WB policies, in particular on indigenous peoples."

24. Luul-Glas Gebreab, National Union of Eritrean Women
"Conducive government policies are crucial. In the Eastern Horn of Africa, harmonising customary laws with progressive laws, like ownership of land, is a big issue. With regards to gender equality in the legal system and in the society as a whole, we need a lot of sensitization and networking in many parts of the world. A crucial point is to empower rural women. The grassroots' way of working is a sustainable way of operation."

25. Wafá Al-Dikah, Director of Agro-industry and Food, Ministry of Agriculture, Lebanon
"We want to address Johannesburg, because many agricultural programmes and projects only let rural women play a marginal role. These programmes should aim specifically at women. Women are under injustice twice, firstly as a woman and secondly because she is working under unjust conditions in rural areas. Statistics do not show her contribution as producer and real worker."

26. W. Peter, Swiss Ministry of Agriculture/ Bio Suisse
"Too few rural women are present here at this conference. A practical suggestion is that FAO could have a list of all rural women's organizations and association in as many countries as possible. Invitations should be sent to all these associations and to their respective government ministries. Then rural women could get funding from their governments, FAO or others to participate. This would give women the possibility to raise their voices."

27. Teresa Assensio Brugiatelli, President of the International Federation of Women in Legal Professions
"Following the reform of family rights in agricultural communities, it is still the case that women work without being recognized or paid. Female agricultural work must always be paid in some form."

28. Anki Elcken, President, Swedish Women's Lobby
"The Swedish Women's Lobby were the only women's umbrella organization present at Bali in the preparatory meeting (prep com) for Johannesburg. If women are to be on the arena as equal partners, women must be put forward in the UN system. More women must be around the peace and negotiation table. In the world only 10% of the parliamentarians and 6% of the ministers are women. We must mobilise the young women for equality."

29. Ana Lilia Pedrosa, SEDESOL, Mexico
"Poverty has the face of a woman and the body of a native. The situation for women in rural areas in Mexico is not much different than in the rest of the world. We want to contribute to the improvement of living conditions, and we are trying to break the link between poverty and hunger. Since we started a programme for health and education in 1997, we have reached 3.2 million families."

Wrap up and summary

Narend Singh, Co-chair, South Africa

There has certainly been a strong will from all the delegates and participants at this side event, and your comments and contribution will be incorporated in the report that will be presented to plenary this evening. I look forward to seeing you all in Johannesburg.

Margareta Winberg, Co-chair, Sweden

To summarize this discussion I would like to list some of the expressions, points and ideas that have been brought up at our seminar today:

In her concluding remarks, Sissel Ekaas, Director of FAO's Gender and Population Division and Secretary to the side event, thanked all participants and informed them that an oral report would be made by Mr. Narend Singh, on behalf of the two co-chairs, to the Plenary of the WFS:fyl that same evening. She also informed participants that a final version of the Message from Rome to Johannesburg would be prepared by the Secretariat and circulated to all participants who had completed the mailing form. It would also be posted on the FAO website and made available to delegates at the WSSD in Johannesburg.

She then invited participants to continue the dialogue by joining the electronic forum on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development to be launched by FAO from June 24 to August 17, 2002. She urged participants to stress gender issues when discussing the three themes: Access to Resources, a Global Campaign on Fair Conditions of Employment in Agriculture and Good Practices for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. The forum would serve as a bridge between Rome and Johannesburg.

Ms Ekaas then thanked her staff and all others who had contributed to the successful organization of the side-event, as well as the donor, The Government of Sweden, and the two co-chairs. Who had skilfully facilitated the very rich dialogue.

In paraphrasing Swedish author, Thomas Tranströmer, she then concluded by noting that "Every person is a half-open door, leading to a room for all" and we have opened our doors and our hearts here today and come together on a common strong message to Johannesburg in support of rural women".

For more information about the side event, please see the following links:


1The text of this speech is a copy of HE Kagame's written manuscript. Minor editing for consistency and grammar has been done.
2The text of this speech is a copy of Mr Harcharik's written manuscript.
3The text of this speech is a copy of Ms Winberg's written manuscript. Minor editing for consistency and grammar has been done.
4The text of this speech by Mr Sing has been reconstructed from the minutes taken during the side event.
5The text of this speech is a copy of Ms Ekaas' written manuscript.
6The text of this speech is based on the translation from Spanish to English of Ms Tuyuc's written manuscript. Minor editing for consistency and grammar has been done.
7The text of Ms Vandana's speech has been reconstructed from recordings made of the session. Minor editing for consistency and grammar was done.
8This sentence has been reformulated to capture general meaning of proposal made as exact wording was not understandable from audio tape.
9The text from the Open dialogue has been reconstructed from the minutes taken during the side event.

Annex 1: Programme side event

Rural women: crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty

ROME, 12 JUNE 2002

Venue: Green Room, First Floor, FAO building A. - 09:00 - 12:30


H.E. Margareta Winberg,
Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries


H.E. Narend Singh,
Provincial Minister Department of Agriculture and Environmental Affairs
South Africa


Sissel Ekaas
Director, Gender and Population Division

09:00 - 09:05



Welcoming remarks:

09:30 - 09:40

FAO and Rural Women: Partners in the fight against hunger and poverty
By: Sissel Ekaas

09:40 - 10:10


10:10 - 12:10

Open dialogue on Message from Rome to Johannesburg

12:10 - 12:20

Wrap up and summary by the Chairs

12:20 - 12:25

Concluding remarks by Sissel Ekaas

Annex 2: Message from Rome to Johannesburg

Annex 3: Report to the WFS: fyl Plenary

WORLD FOOD SUMMIT: five years later

Panel Discussion, 12 June 2002 (morning session)
Rural women: crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty

Report to the Plenary

A side event on Rural women: crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty took place this morning in the Green Room. It was organized by FAO's Gender and Population Division with the financial contribution of the Government of Sweden. The side event was attended by approximately 400 delegates from governments, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations. The side event served to enhance the visibility, recognition and support for the important role and contributions of rural women in achieving the targets of the World Food Summit of 1996.

The event was opened by H.E. Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda followed by a statement by the Deputy Director General of FAO, Mr David Harcharik. H.E. Margareta Winberg, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Sweden and H.E. Narend Singh, Provincial Minister for Agriculture and Environmental Affairs, South Africa, co-chaired t\he panel discussion. Two specially invited speakers, Ms Rosalina Tuyuc, Guatemala and Dr Vandana Shiva, India each made a presentation to the forum to stimulate the rich open dialogue with the audience that followed. Twenty-eight speakers, including several ministers, contributed with short interventions from the floor.

The side event focussed on the need to mobilize political will and the necessary resources to recognize rural women's rights, knowledge, contribution and role so that women will equitably participate in and share the benefits of development. Participants emphasized that rural women are the experts and the owners of their local ecosystems and the related biodiversity. Failing to listen to rural women, will therefore slow down and constrain the effectiveness, equality and sustainability of development response strategies.

There was agreement that rural women, the majority of whom are farmers and agricultural wage workers, are crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty. Hunger and poverty in rural areas, where 70 percent of the poor live, are related to the access to, control, and sharing of benefits from natural resources. The devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in many rural communities is leading to increased poverty, less varied cultivation and further stress on natural resources as well as in nutritional value of the food. Women, youth and children headed households are hardest hit, due to their limited control of and access to resources. Therefore, equitable access for women to natural and productive resources, as well as the right of women and girls to inherit such property, have been key demands from major stakeholder groups during the preparations for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg from 26 August to 4 September this year. Ms Sissel Ekaas, the Director of FAO's Gender and Population Division and Secretary to the side event, noted in her presentation to the forum that this particular issue is also reflected as a priority area in the new FAO Gender and Development Plan of Action (2002-2007), endorsed unanimously by the FAO Conference in November 2001.

The ultimate objective of the side event was to come out with a strong message that will be sent from FAO and its constituency gathered in Rome, to the Johannesburg Summit. It was agreed that to enhance the status of rural women and promote gender equality in agriculture and rural development actions are needed in two key areas: 1) the equal access to and control of natural and productive resources; and 2) the empowerment and full participation of rural women as agents for change in policy making at all levels and throughout development activities. Participants underlined that gender equality in the area of agriculture will be fundamental if food security for all is to be reached in an environmentally sound and sustainable manner.

Participants agreed that persisting gender inequalities and inequities need to be removed for effective and sustainable solutions to hunger and rural poverty to be found. Key actions should include the provision of appropriate technologies, including information- and labour-saving technologies, to reduce rural women's drudgery and free up time for their increased representation and participation in relevant decision-making bodies and in entrepreneurial and income-earning activities.

In this regard, it was noted that rural women are often grossly under-represented in decision-making processes and are often "missed targets" in the design, implementation and monitoring of agricultural and rural development policies and programmes. Therefore, the empowerment of rural women, including through training and education, was viewed as a necessary catalyst to ensure their broad-based participation in decision-making processes and in rural development programmes. The importance of ensuring a better representation of women in national farmer unions, in parallel with support for their right to organize themselves to secure their interests, was underlined.

Participants called for concrete actions to realize the provisions under Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, which provides for equal access to agricultural productive resources, including land and credit, as well as equal benefit-sharing for rural women and men. It was noted that most FAO member nations had signed this Convention.

Gender equality and the removal of gender-based discrimination were seen as necessary means to reach the UN Millennium Development Goals on reducing poverty and hunger by half by the year 2015. The need to assess progress made towards gender equality and ensure accountability was stressed, and also the need for baselines and gender-sensitive indicators pertaining to access, control and ownership of natural resources, empowerment and participation to facilitate such monitoring.

The key role that rural women should and are playing in conflict resolution, peace-building and the reconstruction of countries following internal strife, war, etc, was underlined, including in the opening remarks of H.E. Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda.

It was agreed that clear gender perspectives should be integrated in all partnership dialogues. This will also imply transformation of processes and perceptions, included in decision-making, in political agenda setting and in the allocation of resources. For this, training and sensitization of decision-makers, as well as capacity building and empowerment for rural women themselves, are required. Also, a number of successes and good practices in gender-sensitive and sustainable agricultural and rural development were mentioned, and the need to collect and disseminate these to serve as inspiration for new initiatives was emphasized.

The side event concluded that broad-based participation of all stakeholders --women and men, young and old-is required to reach the common goal of sustainable rural development and food security for all. Finally, there was a call to forge action-oriented multi-stakeholder partnerships at national-level, as well as between North and South and South and South, involving Governmental and Non-Governmental stakeholders and Civil Society.

Annex 4: List of participants

FAO Members and Observers, including National NGOs








































































United Nations Organizations and other International Organizations

Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW)
Association Press
Banque Arabe pour le développement économique en Afrique (BADEA)
Business and Professional Women International (BPW)
Centre de cooperation internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD)
Church World Service
East African Development Bank
European Commission
Global Mechanism of UNCCD
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
International Alliance of Women in consultation with UN (INGO)
International Association of Agricultural Students
International Atomic Energy Agency
International Council of Women (ICW)
International Federation for Home economics (IFHE)
Intenational Indian Treaty Council (CITI)
Internation Labor Organization (ILO)
International Plant Genetic Resource Institute (IPGRI)
International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR)
M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
Society for International Development
The Arab Centre for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands (ACSAD)
UN Permanent Representative for IAW to FAO
UN Standing Committee on Nutrition
United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
World Food Programme (WFP)
World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations

* Full information of participants' names, addresses and e-mail is available from Ms Marie Randriamamonjy:

The World Food Summit (WFS): Five years later took place in Rome 10 to 13 June 2002 to follow up, reaffirm and reinforce the commitments made at the WFS in November 1996, at which governments pledged their political will and their collective common and national commitment to achieving food security for all and to an ongoing effort to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their level no later than 2015.

The half-day side event on Rural women: crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty took place 12 June 2002. The event served to enhance the visibility, recognition and support for the important role and contributions of rural women, and in particular women farmers, in achieving the targets of the World Food Summit of 1996.

The side event was organized by FAO's Gender and Population Division with the financial contribution of the Government of Sweden.

Gender and Population Division
Sustainable Development Department
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

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