Gender and development People

A new framework for development

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

THE ROOT CAUSES of persistent poverty and food insecurity among rural women and the families they support are inter-related. They include:

For FAO, addressing these priority areas is fundamental to enhancing the status of rural women and achieving food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Women in Development (WID) has been very successful in increasing awareness of women's distinct priorities, situations and concerns. It has stimulated networking and alliance-building among rural women and their advocates. WID emphasizes the substantial roles of rural women and their contributions to food and agricultural production in order to alter development practices and direct scarce economic resources to them.

It became evident, however, that simply targeting women as a group with special needs was not enough. By treating women as special beneficiaries in projects and programmes, women's issues often became mere appendages to mainstream development interventions. It was the overall structural factors in society - the rules and practices of the household, community, market and the state - which sustained women's subordinate position. These needed to be understood and effectively changed.

The Gender and Development (GAD) approach seeks to understand the ways gender constrains or advances efforts to promote sustainable economic growth while ensuring an equitable distribution of its benefits. Emphasis is placed on analyzing the incentives and constraints under which women and men work in order to "make visible" the differences between them in terms of their roles and workloads, the impact of interventions on them, and their ability to gain access to resources and decision-making. It also analyzes the implications of these findings for planning and implementation.

Efficiency, a central component of the approach, provides the tools and methods for more sound interventions. Greater participation is sought from women at all stages of the development process and at all levels. The use of a participatory approach helps to empower women by raising their consciousness, as well as their voices, about their needs, rights and capabilities. In this way, a gender and development approach not only makes the process of gender subordination visible, it also helps to mobilize all actors to work towards social and economic change.

Our perceptions of the meaning of development have changed. In the post-UNCED era, and as a result of the 1995 World Summit for Social Development and Fourth World Conference on Women, FAO's newly established Sustainable Development Department is committed to making sustainable development operational. This implies moving beyond the rhetoric of international debates to actually integrating the human, social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability into a coherent global vision for sustainable agriculture and rural development.

The advancement of women is central to achieving sustainable development. Women are responsible for natural resource management through their day-to-day productive and reproductive tasks of providing fuel, water and food for household consumption and for sale. However, they are rarely in a position to influence decisions that determine the allocation of resources and, hence, the sustainable use of land, water and woodlands. Women have learned ecologically sustainable methods of agriculture and have acquired extensive knowledge about genetic diversity. If they are denied partnership in development, this wisdom is lost.

Women are often the major suppliers of household subsistence. When their access to productive resources declines, more people suffer from poverty and its related effects, including hunger, malnutrition and illness. Improving women's access to resources and services increases farm productivity, provides a more efficient use of resources, and ultimately yields higher profitability.

Promoting development that is economically efficient, environmentally friendly and equitable requires a complete reorientation of development efforts to enhance women's capacities. FAO seeks to achieve this goal by addressing what women need from development, as outlined in the strategic objectives for the Plan of Action for Women in Development:

Plan of action for women in development

The FAO Plan of Action for Women in Development (1996-2001) is FAO's response to the challenges of the 1990s as well as the recommendations of recent international fora, including the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the World Conference on Human Rights, the International Conference on Nutrition, the International Conference on Population and Development, the World Summit for Social Development and the World Food Summit. It represents FAO's framework for assisting its Member Nations in implementing the Platform for Action, a global blueprint of actions to promote the advancement of women that was the major outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in September, 1995.

Purpose of the plan

To implement the Plan, FAO will focus on four inter-related areas:

Go to the full text of the FAO Plan of Action for Women in Development (1996-2001).

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

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