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Sustainable Development Goals

Sustainable Development Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

The principle of “leaving no one behind” guides every goal of the 2030 Agenda.

The focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment is explicit across all the SDGs, both as a stand-alone goal, SDG 5, on gender equality and as a cross-cutting theme with more than 30 related targets.

Gender equality is a necessary foundation for a fair, peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world, but it is also a fundamental human right. Women’s empowerment is a powerful multiplier of well-being and a prerequisite for sustainable development.

Across all regions, rural women face greater constraints than men in access to land, fertilisers, water for irrigation, seeds, technology, tools, credit, extension services, profitable cash crops, output markets and rural institutions. Women often experience discrimination in rural labour markets and tend to be responsible for the bulk of unpaid care work within their households and communities. All this significantly hampers women’s capacity to contribute to agricultural production and rural development.

Research shows that when rural women are empowered to have equal access as men to productive and financial resources, income opportunities, education and services, there is an increase in agricultural output and a significant reduction in the number of poor and hungry people.

Gender equality is central to FAO's mandate to achieve food security for all by raising levels of nutrition, improving agricultural productivity and natural resource management and improving the lives of rural people with full and equitable participation in decision-making.  Without gender equality and rural women’s economic, social and political empowerment, food security will not be achieved.

Facts and figures

  • Women represent about half of the total agricultural labour force in developing countries, are typically the guardians of household food security, and act as the main caregivers in rural areas.
  • Women account for an estimated two-thirds of the world’s 600 million poor livestock keepers.
  • Out of the 56 million of overall employment in fisheries and aquaculture, women represent 19 percent of employers in the primary sector and approximately 50 percent in secondary sectors (still no mechanism in place to systematically collect statistics on women’s engagement in the secondary sectors).
  • Data available on female employment in forestry and logging for 29 countries (representing 17 % of the total forest area) showed an increase from 20 to 32 percent from 1990 to 2010. The highest number of women working in forests was in Bangladesh (600,000), China (301,000) and Mali (180,000), with the greatest share of female employment in Mali (90 percent) Mongolia and Namibia (45 percent) and Bangladesh (40 percent).
  • Rural women are far more likely than urban women to be illiterate, unemployed, suffer domestic violence and live without adequate social protection coverage.
  • It is estimated that endowing women and men with the same access to resources could raise total agricultural output in developing regions by 2.5 percent to 4 percent and reduce the number of undernourished people by 12 percent to 17 percent globally (FAO SOFA 2010-11).
  • Research also indicates that when more income is put into the hands of women, child nutrition, health and education improves.

SDG5 Targets

  1. End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere
  2. Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation
  3. Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation
  4. Recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work through the provision of public services, infrastructure and social protection policies and the promotion of shared responsibility within the household and the family as nationally appropriate
  5. Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic and public life
  6. Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences

a. Undertake reforms to give women equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws

b. Enhance the use of enabling technology, in particular information and communications technology, to promote the empowerment of women

c. Adopt and strengthen sound policies and enforceable legislation for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls at all levels. 

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