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February 2005

Monitoring the Millennium Development Goals from a rural perspective

FAO Discussion paper

by Yianna Lambrou
Gender and Development Service
FAO Gender and Population Division

This paper* offers some reflections on the monitoring process for the MDGs and highlights FAO relevant activities on gender and rural development. In 2000, nations came together at the Millennium Summit to reaffirm their commitment to international agreements over the past decades. Through this summit the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were developed with indicators to monitor their progress. In line with the development of the MDGs, FAO has recognized the need to monitor and evaluate agricultural and natural resources management policy and planning activities both at the national and the project or community level. This paper offers some recommendations for strengthening the rural component of the MDG process as the Millennium Development Goals represent an unprecedented international commitment to address the root causes, and mitigate some of the effects of underdevelopment.

The MDGs are ambitious and their attainment requires a unified and committed effort. One of the central issues is hunger. FAO is committed to addressing hunger alongside poverty both of which are the central themes of Goal 1. Governments are largely responsible for creating the appropriate policy frameworks that are the basis for reaching the MDGs. Changes can be recognized as having taken place when the right monitoring mechanisms are set up to allow stakeholders inside and outside government to hold policy-makers accountable for their commitments.

The mainstreaming of gender issues into MDG goals and targets as well as reporting procedures has raised particular challenges. There is general concern that the MDGs may not accurately reflect the urgent issues of rural social inequality and the institutional changes that are required to achieve gender equality. An underlying assumption of the MDGs is that progress in such fundamental areas as food security is bound to entail progress in other areas (such as poverty reduction), but this link may be more tenuous in the case of gender equality which involves profound parallel societal changes (See MDG Goals - Annex I).

Responses to this challenge have been diverse, and include: extending and diversifying the list of indicators, as agencies such as the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) have done; and reviewing country reports to assess the quality of gender mainstreaming, as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has done. Regardless of these difficulties, all of those involved in achieving the MDGs count on having a transparent, well-informed monitoring and reporting process in place. Such a process helps to mobilize civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to assist governments by using the MDGs as an advocacy tool for galvanizing public opinion on key issues.

All United Nations (UN) institutions and agencies are playing an important role in creating the right conditions at the national and international levels to allow this feedback process to take place. In addition, in the context of their respective mandates, UN agencies can help increase public knowledge by making it available to all parties so that they are better able to raise the concerns and monitor progress closely.

FAO in its role as specialized agency on food and agriculture contributes to the monitoring process of the MDGs by providing primary data for the following two indicators:

FAO activities focus on food security, and many FAO interventions are directly conducive to achieving Goal 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger). It is believed that achieving food security, in turn, will have a direct impact on all the other MDGs. Undernourishment is strongly correlated to poverty, child and maternal mortality, and to the incidence of tuberculosis and malaria. FAO’s interventions in the area of food security and nutrition are expected to have an impact on reaching Goals 4, 5 and 6. Sustainable livelihoods are central both to FAO’s mandate and to reaching Goal 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability) of the MDGs. FAO promotes gender quality in access to and control of productive resources which contribute directly to the reduction of rural poverty and hunger.

FAO’s commitment to achieving sustainable development is closely linked to the pursuit of gender equality in all its endeavours be they in the field or in normative policy advice and research. FAO’s Gender and Population Division (SDW), leads the Organization’s efforts to mainstream gender into all FAO activities. Interventions aim to promote gender-sensitive monitoring of the MDGs by advancing knowledge about gender issues in agriculture, nutrition and rural development.

FAO, recognizing the importance of promoting collaboration and recognition of this issue, organized The High-Level Consultation on Rural Women and Information, held at FAO headquarters in 1999. This event, highlighted the importance of information as a fundamental tool for redressing gender inequality, exacerbated by rural–urban inequality. The Strategy for Action3 that emerged from this consultation highlighted the different stages of the information cycle and made the following recommendations:

Produce information that supports the production of gender-sensitive primary data on rural women and men, designs gender-sensitive indicators and supports the production of secondary data. Information must be disseminated to provide policy advice to decision-makers involved in planning MDG implementation and to build the capacity of stakeholders in their respective roles so they are better able to ensure that the monitoring process of achieving the MDGs takes into consideration gender differences. Finally, by sharing information on all of these processes with the civil society, institutions can be strengthened.

1 Gender disaggregation of statistical data4

Accurate and reliable primary data on women and men is fundamental for the planning and monitoring of gender-sensitive policies and programmes as at present they are lacking or of poor quality. The gender issues underlying each MDG can be mainstreamed into policy frameworks, but they also need to be recognized and made visible. The current gender biases in statistics and information on rural households and production need to be examined and dealt with if the links between gender inequality food insecurity and rural poverty are to be addressed.

An essential element in building national-level capacity in gender and statistics for the ministries of agriculture and central statistics offices of Governments has been linked to the production of good data. This has been done by seeking to train users through seminars, and user–producer exchanges; producing training materials5 dealing with gender-disaggregated data and developing technical guidelines6 for the mainstreaming of gender into agricultural censuses and surveys. The promotion of disaggregating by sex the existing statistical data through recoding and retabulation has helped to provide constant technical assistance to Governments.

These tools are crucial in providing national statisticians with insights regarding “hidden” gender biases in existing data collection methods and tools. They also help to develop national capacities to adapt statistics methods and tools towards addressing the urgent national needs for gender-disaggregated data collection and analysis. Improved documentation of gender-disaggregated data collection and some improvements in the availability of gender-disaggregated agricultural information is already a positive step forward towards achieving a viable monitoring system for the MDGs.

The incorporation of gender and other socio-economic aspects into agricultural censuses and surveys has greatly enhanced their potential value as sources of social statistics as well for the databases that FAO holds and maintains. The FAO database is currently being revised, and the new version will contain additional data on the more neglected human dimensions of agriculture, including gender.

2 Gender-sensitive indicators

The heated debate around the choice of indicators for each of the MDG targets underlines their importance as front-line instruments for monitoring and evaluating development work both for the agencies producing them and for the users. There is concern that the indicators may not be gender-sensitive enough to indicate how far and in what ways the MDGs have met the gender equality objective stated in the Millennium Declaration. It is clear that increasing the number of international indicators for each target will weigh down the monitoring process, as well as raising issues of international comparability and the relevance of indicators. However, national debates around the MDG indicators are not being limited to the MDG framework, and discussions are already greatly benefiting from a wider array of context-specific gender-sensitive indicators.

To respond to the need for measuring results and recognizing milestones of progress, FAO has developed a core set of gender-sensitive indicators in the area of natural resources management. These are based on identifying the gender-sensitive factors that put differential pressure on the management and use of natural resources7. Following on from this first initiative, gender-sensitive indicators are at present being developed in the areas of livestock, fisheries and forestry in collaboration with the experts in those areas ensuring as well that they are field-tested and improved by those who would use them.

The FAO-developed indicators assess the nature of the relationships between women and men and how they use their natural resources and how these relationships evolve over time in a dynamic process of continuous change from within and from without. This kind of information can assist in the monitoring of the MDGs’ progress highlighting the interlinkages between poverty and environmental degradation, (See Goal 1 Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; and Goal 7 Ensure environmental sustainability).

Indicators for monitoring the impact of HIV/AIDS on food security and agricultural production are also being developed. These will make it possible to highlight the interlinkages among gender (Goal 3), HIV/AIDS (Goal 6) and food insecurity (Goal 1).

3 Methodologies for gender responsive research

Fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals will depend largely on designing and implementing policies that respond to the urgent issues of development while keeping in mind the national and international contexts. Policies must be based on sound and relevant research, demonstrating the interrelation between explicit targets and goals and how the underlying conditions will have to change if these are to be reached. Research that begins with identifying gender differences is a particularly powerful way of highlighting the underlying conditions that shape social change by complementing the information that is not necessarily captured by the MDG indicators framework.

Partnerships of recognized research institutions from the North and the South will need to collaborate intensely and openly in all contexts worldwide to provide the kinds of interrelated quantitative and qualitative information that is crucial for designing policies that can bring about change.

3.1 Gender-related rights in agriculture

For national policy to comply with international legal instruments such as Conventions and Treaties, it should begin with identifying existing research on rights issues from a gender perspective. Gender mainstreaming and gender rights are not directly monitored by the present set of indicators for the MDGs, including Goal 3 (Promote gender equality and women’s empowerment). The Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which already exists and has been ratified by most countries is a powerful instrument for demonstrating and analysing the underlying legal conditions with regards to women that are necessary for reaching the MDGs and that each country must fulfil.

The agricultural land rights issue is not captured in the present set of MDG indicators (see Annex 1). Yet it is of fundamental importance to the MDGs, because it pertains directly to Goal 3 (Promote gender equality and empower women), Goal 1 (Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger) and Goal 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability). Secure land rights for women and men are a critical condition for food security and poverty reduction, while sustainable livelihood practices are more possible when land rights are secure particularly for women who carry out much of the agricultural labour on land that is not by ‘right’ theirs (FAO, 2002b).

Sustainable development relies heavily on both access to property rights in land and the security of those rights. Land is a crucial asset for food production, and a key factor for shelter and community development. Land ownership is a source of wealth, social status and power. It conditions access to other resources, such as credit. The willingness and ability to make long-term investments in land, both for enhancing productivity and for ensuring environmentally sustainable practices and technologies, depends directly on how much protection a society affords the holders of land rights.

Land rights are a major outstanding gender equality issue and one which is at the basis of profound gender discrimination. Compared with men, women formally own very little agricultural land worldwide, despite their important contribution to agricultural production. User rights do not confer to women the necessary decision-making control over land to allow them to invest and develop production. Women as a result lack adequate asset-based security for themselves and their dependents and especially so in the face of natural or human-induced disasters, conflicts or emergencies when they lack the means to establish themselves immediately on their own.

A recent FAO study on “Gender and law: women’s rights in agriculture,”8 analysed the gender dimension of agriculture-related legislation and the legal status of women in three key areas: women’s rights to land and other natural resources; the rights of women agricultural workers; and women’s rights concerning agricultural self-employment activities. Issues ranging from women’s status in rural cooperatives to their access to credit, training and extension services were examined fully in ten countries but also information on several others was provided.

The study concluded very clearly that de facto discrimination and the de facto limitation of women’s rights exist in all areas of law and in all regions of the world, albeit to different degrees. In some cases, discrimination is directly or indirectly entrenched in statutory norms; in others, an absence of gender-specific provisions results in inadequate protection of women’s rights; while women’s rights in some countries are curtailed by legal pluralism and the coexistence of different, conflicting norms (e.g. customary versus statutory law).

The consequences are that although women constitute a large portion of the economically active population engaged in agriculture, they have no or little access to productive resources such as land, credit and extension services, and furthermore enjoy little legal protection in the workplace. Women and their families are greatly limited by this inequality and especially so in the case of female-headed households. Most of the countries covered by the study have made efforts to attain gender equality, both by explicitly prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sex/gender and by adopting special measures for the advancement of women, but entrenched cultural practices limit the degree of change.

FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the International Land Coalition (ILC) undertook in 2003 a joint study of national reports from selected FAO governments that are also parties to the CEDAW Convention. The purpose of this study was to assess the status of compliance with Article 14 (on rural women) and other related articles of the convention, especially with regards to access to land and property9, as well as identifying – where appropriate – the land or agricultural reforms that countries have undertaken or launched. The report looked at the degree to which these reforms respect women’s rights, and how women’s access to land and property, inheritance and legal support have been ensured. The findings confirm the fact that in all the countries reviewed, women and men have unequal rights to land. Taking measures to ensure equal access to land in countries undergoing land reform is an act of profound social importance.

For the CEDAW reporting process to be useful in promoting gender equality in land rights, it must be able to reflect and compare progress at the international level. Access to information is a crucial point, especially enhanced and free access to information regarding human rights treaty bodies and related literature, including country-specific data. In particular, statistical data on rural women and men needs to be collected and presented coherently and systematically, as well as information on legislation that affects property and land rights. (This is also a gap in the MDG indicator for Goal 3 (gender equality) which due to the lack of data on the employment of rural women is thus limited to women in non-agricultural employment).

3.2 Gender perspectives on HIV-AIDS and rural livelihoods

In Africa, the impact of HIV/AIDS has reached pandemic proportions creating difficulties in maintaining sustainable livelihoods and affecting profoundly the social and productive fabric of many societies. Halting and reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS (target 7 of Goal 6, Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases) is a necessary issue to address if the MDGs are to be reached. When considering rural households and, particularly, gender issues in agriculture, the linkages among HIV/AIDS (Goal 6), food security and poverty (Goal 1) and gender equality (Goal 3) become clear. Poverty provides fertile conditions for the spread of HIV/AIDS; rural poverty induces migration, which contributes to the spread of infection, as does a lack of information, access to health services and livelihood opportunities. Women are more vulnerable than men to infection; biological factors place women at higher risk of infection, while unequal gender relations often imply that women have low negotiation power regarding the protection of their own reproductive health. Thus, although men die in larger numbers during the initial stages of the epidemic, in later stages, infection and death rates increase faster among women.

HIV/AIDS, in turn, has an impact on poverty and food insecurity. Women and men share the burden of ensuring survival. Women’s role is mainly as care providers, household managers and subsistence farmers. Household financial resources are drained because of rising medical and funeral expenses, as well as increased expenses for the additional family members, such as orphans who may join the household after the deaths of their parents. Household income drops drastically, as production plummets with the illness and death of adults in their prime years. The workload of women of all generations as care givers multiplies because the sick and dying need nursing, Furthermore, on the death of husbands, gender-biased inheritance laws and customs may drag surviving widows into destitution.

Immediate survival strategies involve a negative payoff in terms of human capital, and this is borne by the following generation as more and more children drop out of school as families are unable to cover the costs of educating both their children and adopted orphans. Out-of-school children are enrolled as intra- or extra-household labour, which alleviates immediate labour and cash needs, but entrenches household poverty in the long term by curtailing children’s livelihood opportunities – it also puts the children at greater risk of HIV infection. The result is a vicious circle linking poverty, food insecurity and HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS/WHO, 2002).

FAO has undertaken research on the gender dimensions of HIV/AIDS. Studies on the impact of the epidemic on agriculture have been carried out since 1988. A recent report (FAO 2003b) demonstrated how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is slowly eroding food security, damaging rural livelihoods, exacerbating poverty and increasing gender inequalities. The report identified existing and potential coping strategies for mitigating the impacts, and recommended ways of adopting and supporting the most effective of these. Agriculture-sector strategies to prevent HIV/AIDS and mitigate its impact on rural poverty have been developed in several countries.

3.3 Women’s and men’s roles in conserving agrobiodiversity

In Goal 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability), target 9 calls specifically for “integrating the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reversing the loss of environmental resources”, and one of the indicators chosen for this target is “Ratio of area protected to maintain biological diversity to surface area”. In many regions, local populations depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Rural women and men play an important role in maintaining biological diversity in the context of their traditional agricultural practices and livelihood strategies. Women and men play different roles in relation to natural resource use, and their gender-differentiated needs and knowledge need to be acknowledged so that appropriate policies can be designed.

Agrobiodiversity is directly linked to both sustainable livelihoods and food security. FAO’s LinKS project – Gender Biodiversity and Local Knowledge10 – is a regional effort in southern Africa (Mozambique, the United Republic of Tanzania and Swaziland) aimed at raising awareness of how rural men and women use and manage agrobiodiversity. Research activities under LinKS explore specifically the linkages between the crucial issues of local knowledge systems, gender roles and relationships, food provision, and the conservation and management of agrobiodiversity in project countries.

4 Policy advice to governments

The MDGs do not raise new development issues but set targets and deadlines for addressing them and providing solutions. It is hoped that the MDGs will spur substantive changes where other international commitments have failed to do so. The challenge is to ensure that the MDGs are embedded into policy frameworks and mainstreamed into the policy instruments that guide resource allocation, such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). Policy advice, through technical assistance to Governments and support to the design of policy activities offers entry points for translating knowledge into action and for demonstrating how a gender-sensitive approach to policy design can make development more effective.

FAO’s Gender and Population Division developed a Gender Plan of Action (GAD POA) that identified activities relating to the mainstreaming of gender into all of FAO’s work. In addition, policy advice into national agricultural and rural development policies was provided in several countries: in the Amazon region, the Near East and Asia, as well as in Costa Rica, Ghana, Togo, Guinea-Conakry, Cambodia, India, Nepal and Jordan for example. Assistance to mainstream gender within national plans for socio-economic development for example in Tunisia, Algeria, the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan was also provided (FAO, 2003c).

5 Capacity-building of decision-makers in gender mainstreaming

Policy-makers and implementers often lack the skills needed for gender-sensitive policy design and implementation, which can range from expertise in the collection of data disaggregated by sex, to technical expertise in mainstreaming gender issues. Designing gender-responsive policies and programmes requires an ongoing, multilevel capacity- building effort that may also involve subtle cultural changes in the consideration of gender relations, and these take time since they must be supported by other processes such as personal awareness-raising and changes in attitudes that are shaped by cultural values.

The Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis Programme (SEAGA)11 is an FAO programme designed to build capacities in gender analysis for gender mainstreaming. The programme’s aim is to increase awareness of and sensitivity towards gender issues, as well as to strengthen development specialists’ capacity to incorporate socio-economic and gender analysis considerations into development planning in order to ensure that all development efforts address the needs and priorities of both men and women (See Annex 4, SEAGA).

Other capacity building activities include training of trainers in the collection of gender sensitive data; technical workshops focusing on a specific sector (fisheries, forests, agricultural systems); or on issues such as gender-disaggregated data in Censuses, HIV/AIDS and food security; as well as recognizing and enhancing the value of traditional knowledge in natural resource management.

6 Support to civil society networks and information sharing

Civil society organizations (CSOs) can exert pressure on governments to translate political commitment into concrete action. The major role of civil society in the MDG monitoring process is to advocate and show how the underlying social and gender inequalities do slow down progress towards human development, and to challenge from within the social structures that maintain these inequalities by offering concrete and tangible proposals for action especially at the grass-roots level.

FAO supports networking among civil society and NGOs through the DIMITRA project12, which is an information and communication network that aims to empower rural populations (women and men) by reinforcing their institutions and enhancing their advocacy skills by facilitating their access to information. The DIMITRA network regroups a large number of local partners in Africa and the Near East, and collects and disseminates information on the objectives, experiences, projects and publications of NGOs, CSOs, community-based organisations (CBOs) and research and information centres working for and with rural women. Better access to information and communication allows these bodies to mobilize and exert pressure to ensure that they are consulted on decisions concerning them, as well as increasing their knowledge and capacity regarding productivity enhancing agricultural techniques. Civil society organizations and women’s grass roots groups must be taken into consideration in any decision- making process and particularly in times of social change, emergency, conflict or natural disaster, when opportunities may emerge for building new institutions and redefined social relations.

7 Present and future challenges: some recommendations

The UN- led MDG process offers an opportunity to rally both decision makers and civil society in a longer term process of accomplishing some central development goals. At the same time, it also makes it possible to explore how these goals and targets can be realized by diverse civil society groups that may have different views about their final outcome and how to measure their success. The UN system has been instrumental in facilitating multi-stakeholder country-level and in launching a global monitoring process, which (even though far from perfect) offers a first chance to create some targets and to attempt to fulfil them. The FAO’s and indeed the UN’s role is vital and full of challenges:

Increase synergy between CEDAW and gender-sensitive monitoring of the MDGs

Reporting and compliance to international legal instruments in all areas should be harmonized with the MDG process. However, attention should also be given to facilitating reporting procedures. The growing numbers of international instruments have rendered reporting processes and coordination among different treaty bodies and complaint mechanisms difficult. In the case of CEDAW, a critical number of countries are falling behind on their reporting, which jeopardizes the usefulness of the CEDAW monitoring process. The CEDAW Committee and the UN system should pay attention to this issue and help signatory States to comply with reporting procedures. The UN is also called upon to simplify and harmonize its reporting procedures. In particular, the adoption of a rights-based approach throughout the UN system has been pointed out as one solution that would enhance the harmonization of strategies (FAO/IFAD/ILC, 2003).

Efforts have been made to ensure that indicators in all of the MDG goals have considered as far as possible the gender implications. Goal 3 which seeks to promote gender equality however, has neglected the rural sector due to lack of data (which is usually collected by the International Labour Office, ILO) and instead focuses its three indicators on more urban notions of gender equality (education, wage employment in the non-agricultural sector, and women in parliament), even though the majority of men and women in underdeveloped countries live in rural areas. Education for young girls in rural areas is often hampered by obstacles which are particularly exacerbated in the rural situation, as is increased rural unemployment. Women in agricultural activities work mostly on an informal basis, thus their contribution cannot be measured if one looks only at waged activities, and indeed up to now little data of this nature has been collected. These shortcomings however will be reconsidered after the first five year review in 2005 is completed.

Bridging the gap between gender specialists and policy-makers

Where technical skills are lacking, access to knowledge about gender mainstreaming should be facilitated. Information on gender issues – ranging from policy briefs to in-depth research – and dissemination strategies should receive special attention, in order for target audiences to be reached.

Ensuring political commitment in favour of rural women

Gender issues in rural areas are in danger of being overlooked in the MDG process, as gender-disaggregated data from rural areas are difficult to generate and integrate into the MDG reports. At the same time, rural CSOs may not be able to convey gender concerns adequately and forcefully (due to lack of quality research data, effective leadership, etc), which may contribute to them being less vocal and invisible in national-level debates between government and civil society. In addition to supporting rural organizations in their gender advocacy role, women parliamentarians representing rural areas and local governments could be specifically targeted in an effort to give voice to the silent rural populations.

Providing the space for generating a constructive national discussion around the MDG reports

The UN has a privileged role to play not only in making information accessible to all stakeholders in the monitoring process, but also in nurturing a feedback process by which countries have the possibility to go beyond the MDGs’ limited set of goals, targets and indicators. Countries can and have developed their own MDG frameworks in order to translate the Millennium Declaration into targets that address national gender issues; such targets have formed the basis from which all parties can engage in gender-responsive context-specific policy dialogue which has indeed begun to take place. FAO is playing a role in the rural context where it can accompany governments in their monitoring process particularly with regards to Goal 1 on the elimination of poverty and hunger and by ensuring that all the other goals are sensitive to the issues of gender differences.

The goals and targets of the MDG framework may be relatively simple in terms of how they have been formulated, but they congregate in only eight goals some, if not all, of the world’s most ambitious aspirations and hopes for change and equality for all. Policies designed to reach them require a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of underdevelopment including gender inequality, particularly as the MDGs have multiple manifestations and complex interrelationships. Gender has not yet been mainstreamed adequately into all MDGs, as country reports testify (UNDP, 2003). However, through the relentless efforts of stakeholders ( both at the country level and in the UN system) who are involved in the gender mainstreaming of the MDGs, it has become eminently clear that promoting gender equality beyond the target set for Goal 3 is at the basis of achieving all the other goals.


*This paper was prepared with the assistance of Virginie Lafleur-Tighe (consultant)
1For more information on how this indicator is computed, see, and for more information on the rationale for this indicator, see The World Food Summit Goals and the Millennium Development Goals/Committee on World Food Security, CFS 2001 2-Sup.1 at
2For more information on this indicator see
3The full document is available at
4For more information on SDW and ESS activities in the area of gender-disaggregated data, see Curry, 2003, available at
5Training materials are available at
6Guidelines are available at
7“Socio-economic and gender-sensitive indicators in the management of natural resources” available at
8Available at
9“Rural women’s access to land and property in selected countries”, available at
10 Information on the LinKs project is available at
11Information on SEAGA and its publications are available at
12Information on DIMITRA and its database of organizations, projects and publications can be found at


Curry, J. 2003. Adding a social dimension to agricultural statistics: incorporation of gender considerations into FAO’s statistical support to governments. Paper presented at the Expert Group Meeting on Setting the Scope of Social Statistics, United Nations Statistics Division, in collaboration with the Siena Group on Social Statistics. New York, 6–9 May 2003.

FAO. Yearly publication. State of the World’s Forests. Rome.

FAO. 1999. High-Level Consultation on Rural Women and Information: Strategy for Action. Rome, 4–6 October 1999.

FAO. 2002a. Gender and law – women’s rights in agriculture. FAO Legislative Study No 76, prepared by L. Cotula for the FAO Legal Office. Rome.

FAO. 2002b. Gender and access to land. FAO Land Tenure Studies No. 4. Rome.

FAO. 2003a. Socio-economic and gender-sensitive indicators in the management of natural resources. Gender and Population Division, FAO Sustainable Development Department, Rome.

FAO. 2003b. HIV/AIDS and agriculture: impacts and responses - case studies from Namibia, Uganda and Zambia. FAO’s Integrated Support to Sustainable Development and Food Security Programme (IP). Rome.

FAO. 2003c. Progress report on implementation of the FAO Gender and Development Plan of Action (2002–2007). Conference, Thirty-Second Session, Rome, 29 November–10 December 2003.

FAO/IFAD/International Land Coalition. 2003c. Rural women’s access to land and property in selected countries: analysis based on initial and periodic reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (1997–2003). Rome.

UNAIDS/WHO. 2002. AIDS epidemic update, December 2002. Washington, DC.

UNDP. 2003. Millennium Development Goals – national reports: a look through a gender lens. New York. Annex 1: Millennium Development Goals framework

Annex 1: Millennium Development Goals framework

Annex 2: Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Articles 14, 15 and 16

Article 14. 1. States Parties shall take into account the particular problems faced by rural women and the significant roles that rural women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non-monetized sectors of the economy, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of this convention to women in rural areas.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right:

  1. to participate in the elaboration and implementation of development planning at all levels;
  2. to have access to adequate health care facilities, including information, counselling and services in family planning;
  3. to benefit directly from social security programmes;
  4. to obtain all types of training and education, formal and non-formal, including that relating to functional literacy, as well as, inter alia, the benefit of all community and extension services, in order to increase their technical proficiency;
  5. to organize self-help groups and cooperatives in order to obtain equal access to economic opportunities through employment or self-employment;
  6. to participate in all community activities;
  7. to have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform, as well as in land resettlement schemes;
  8. to enjoy adequate living conditions, particularly in relation to housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications.

Article 15. 1. States Parties shall accord to women equality with men before the law.

2. States Parties shall accord to women, in civil matters, a legal capacity identical to that of men and the same opportunities to exercise that capacity. In particular, they shall give women equal rights to conclude contracts and to administer property and shall treat them equally in all stages of procedure in courts and tribunals.

3. States Parties agree that all contracts and all other private instruments of any kind with a legal effect that is directed at restricting the legal capacity of women shall be deemed null and void.

4. States Parties shall accord to men and women the same rights with regard to the law relating to the movement of persons and the freedom to choose their residence and domicile.

Article 16. 1. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations and in particular shall ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women:

  1. the same right to enter into marriage;
  2. the same right freely to choose a spouse and to enter into marriage only with their free and full consent;
  3. the same rights and responsibilities during marriage and at its dissolution;
  4. the same rights and responsibilities as parents, irrespective of their marital status, in matters relating to their children; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
  5. the same rights to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to the information, education and means to enable them to exercise these rights;
  6. the same rights and responsibilities with regard to guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children, or similar institutions where these concepts exist in national legislation; in all cases the interests of the children shall be paramount;
  7. the same personal rights as husband and wife, including the right to choose a family name, a profession and an occupation;
  8. the same rights for both spouses in respect of the ownership, acquisition, management, administration, enjoyment and disposition of property, whether free of charge or for a valuable consideration.

2. The betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, shall be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory.

Annex 3: FAO’s Institutional Framework for Gender Mainstreaming

The Gender and Population Division of FAO supports the mainstreaming of gender and population issues into the work of FAO, in collaboration with other technical divisions, as well as providing direct policy advice, technical assistance and training to FAO governments in mainstreaming these issues into national agricultural and rural development policies, programmes and projects. The Gender and Population Division also acts as a focal point for interagency collaboration and initiatives related to gender and population, and reports regularly to various UN bodies on FAO’s follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995), the International Conference on Population and Development (Cairo, 1994) and the outcomes of related +5 reviews.

As part of the Gender and Population Division, the Gender and Development service (SDWW) focuses on the implementation of the FAO Plan of Action for Women in Development in order to address the major goals of FAO and Governments in relation to agricultural and rural development.

In pursuit of FAO’s mission to help build a food-secure world, the Gender and Development Plan of Action (2002–2007) aims at removing the obstacles to women’s and men’s equal and active participation in, and enjoyment of, the benefits from agricultural and rural development. It emphasizes that a transformed partnership based on equality between women and men is an essential condition for people-centred sustainable agricultural and rural development.

Its purpose is fourfold:

Four medium-term objectives, which are derived from the global goals of FAO’s Strategic Framework 2000–2015, aim to promote gender equality in:

These strategic objectives will be pursued through gender mainstreaming efforts that focus on four priority areas of intervention:

FAO Gender and Development Plan of Action (2002–2007):

Gender and Population Division:

Gender and Development Service:

Annex 4

SEAGA training sessions are conducted on an ongoing basis, and training materials have been developed to cater for the capacity building needs of field workers, development planners and policy- and decision-makers. The SEAGA Field Handbook can be used to assist agents who work directly and in a participatory manner with local communities to identify the needs and priorities of local men and women from different socio-economic groups. The SEAGA Intermediate Handbook is a useful tool in the identification and analysis of linkages between the macro and field levels. It can also be used to assess institutions’ organizational structures from a gender perspective. The SEAGA Macro Handbook, Gender analysis in macroeconomic and agricultural sector policies and programmes, facilitates gender mainstreaming in programmes and policies, and provides a conceptual framework, methods and tools that support participatory development planning.


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