Gender and development People

Posted May 1997

the key to sustainability
and food security


Gender refers not to women or men per se, but to the relations between them, both perceptual and material. Gender is not determined biologically, as a result of sexual characteristics of either women or men, but is constructed socially. It is a central organizing principle of societies and often governs the processes of production and reproduction, consumption and distribution. Gender roles are the "social definition" of women and men, and vary among different societies and cultures, classes and ages, and during different periods in history. Gender-specific roles and responsibilities are often conditioned by household structure, access to resources, specific impacts of the global economy, and other locally relevant factors such as ecological conditions.

Gender analysis seeks answers to fundamental questions such as who does or uses what, how and why. The purpose of gender analysis is not to create a separate body of social knowledge about women, but to rethink current processes - such as natural resource use and management, economic adjustment and transformation, or demographic changes - to better understand the gender factors and realities within them. Armed with this knowledge, it should be possible to avoid the mistakes of the past and tailor interventions to better meet women's and men's specific gender-based constraints, needs and opportunities.

The FAO Plan of Action for Women in Development (1996-2001), adopted in 1995, presents a framework for ensuring that gender issues become an integral part of the Organization's work. For FAO, gender is a cross-cutting issue requiring organization-wide responsibilities. For each of the technical areas for which FAO is responsible, Programmes of Action for the advancement of women have been developed. These Programmes seek to strengthen the technical, professional and resource capacities of FAO to address issues of gender, and to diffuse responsibility for integrating such issues among all those working in the development arena. This will help ensure that FAO's commitments to the advancement of women are translated into concrete achievements. These programmes form the core of the FAO Plan of Action.

This Special presentation describes FAO's conceptual framework for analysing gender's implications for sustainable agriculture and rural development. It shows how FAO is transforming these ideas into strategies and actions, specifically in the areas of natural resources, agricultural support systems, food and nutrition, and improved policy-making and planning.

As the United Nations agency responsible for agriculture, forestry and fisheries worldwide, and with a mandate to promote sustainable agriculture and rural development and food security for all people, FAO will further its mission to ensure that women, as well as men, have the support and access to resources they need to pursue sustainable livelihoods and an improved quality of life. Through its Plan of Action, FAO will ensure that this pledge is carried forward into the next millennium.

GENDER+  Overview  Natural resources Agriculture Food/nutrition Policy/planning Role of FAO

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