International Women’s Day 2022: Perspectives from FAO in the field

©️FAO/Mirbek Kadtaliev


Every year on 8 March, International Women’s Day is celebrated to honour women's social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. This year's theme is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow,targeting the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies, and programmes. 

On this occasion, FAO staff working on the ground have been asked to share their thoughts on the advances in gender equality.

Why is women’s economic empowerment so important?

As the main producers, farmers, and entrepreneurs in labour-intensive agriculture and the rural economy in Albania, women demonstrate impressive resilience and contribute significantly to their food security and nutrition, caregiving, and wellbeing. Therefore, for Albania, the economic empowerment of rural women has multiplier effects and serves as an important channel of substantial progress and positive change to reduce the gender gap. This is also a prerequisite for [agrifood systems] transformation and gender equality, encouraging more innovative rural communities.

Merita Mece, gender specialist and coordinator of gender rural equality and tourism project, Albania

What are the key issues that rural women and girls face, also relevant to climate change and natural disasters?

Women’s heavier reliance on natural resources and ecosystem goods and services, as well as differences in the roles of women and men in natural resource management, shape different climate change adaptive capacities. This also points to gender differences in exposure to risks and vulnerability to biodiversity loss and other natural resource services. Rural women and girls are more likely to face poverty, domestic violence, and sexual intimidation, and have less access to health care and tertiary education.  

In rural areas of Abkhazia, the majority of women are engaged in cheesemaking, which they use both for their own consumption and for selling in local markets to generate income. However, a few challenges are associated with this activity, including low milk productivity, insufficient livestock feed, and animal diseases, which all affect cheese quality. Women involved in the production of cheese need to improve their knowledge in food safety and hygiene and learn how to diversify dairy products. FAO plans to support rural women engaged in dairy farming to take better care of their livestock, improve milk productivity, and produce greater variety of high-quality dairy produce for their own consumption as well as for sale to generate more income.

Kyial Arabaeva, Head of FAO project office in Abkhazia;Vladimir Kokarev, project coordinator; and Lana Sanguliya, project assistant

©️FAO/Abdul Mustafazade; ©️FAO

What are some of your achievements in mainstreaming gender equality in your work? 

In Kyrgyzstan, the development of five women-led producer organisations has demonstrated the value of managing collaborative business processes, such as production, marketing, and branding. The success of these producer organisations strengthens women’s businesses in the country and contributes to the national programme for women’s entrepreneurship 2021–2025. FAO plans to continue assisting established producing organisations by improving their knowledge in agricultural production, marketing, and value-chain development.

Omurbek Mambetov, agronomist, Kyrgyzstan

Traditionally, agriculture is considered a labour-intensive and men-dominated sector. However, when interacting closely at the field level, both women and men, as well as girls and boys, contribute to food security. FAO organised around 20 capacity-building events with at least 40 percent participation of women to improve their knowledge and skills on farming in the areas with marginalised and salinized soils. Men have also engaged actively in this process. Within one of the FAO projects in Kazakhstan, women farmers of the Kyzylorda region exchanged and brainstormed on how to solve the issues in farming. At the end of the meeting, participants agreed to develop a women farmers’ association for the region.

Zhanyl Bozayeva, programme officer and team leader, Kazakhstan

Tell us about the progress so far in empowering women in climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental risk reduction.

In Georgia,FAO aims at improving rural women’s life quality, with a particular focus on investments in labour-saving agricultural equipment and machinery. Transforming traditional and mostly manual subsistence-oriented practices into more flexible, labour- and time-saving agricultural production and processing processes is essential. This intervention will increase the free time of women, which will also have a positive and indirect effect on their wellbeing, employment and education opportunities, and income generation in the future.

Ensuring that women have access to training and extension services is crucial. 

FAO in Georgia is engaged with female labour migrant groups working in the dairy sector. Women lack access to information about food safety standards, which significantly prevents them from reaching the retail markets. In 2021, more than 400 women farmers have been trained on climate-smart agriculture, conservation agriculture, and integrated pest management. Ensuring that women have access to training and extension services is crucial. To achieve this, FAO supports women-led demonstration plots and farmer field schools to scale up the best agricultural practices further and increase the resilience of women and girls in the face of climate change.

Teona Makatsaria, extension support specialist and gender and social inclusion adviser for the ENPARD project, Georgia;andSalome Kinkladze, national gender mainstreaming and social inclusion specialist, Georgia

FAO supports the development of gender-sensitive, local disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation plans and produces reports on the impact of disasters on the agricultural sector. In the local plans, ensuring that women and men can access key resources, services, and infrastructure provided by the state is of great importance. Climate-smart agriculture practices decrease climate change impact on women’s responsibilities, such as watering private plots and vegetable gardens. During the development of local plans, FAO raises awareness among community members on the importance of women’s labour force in households and in decision-making.

Jyldyz Toktomametova, national project manager, Kyrgyzstan


Describe your work on mainstreaming gender equality and women’s empowerment?

All FAO projects in Azerbaijan promote women’s participation in the Organization's activities. In addition, with the support of the government, FAO is implementing a project targeting women. Nearly 300 women from 12 remote areas of the country were provided online and onsite training on vegetable and fruit growing, cattle breeding, poultry raising, beekeeping, pest management, agro-tourism, and business plan development. FAO organised training sessions and other events within local communities or close to participants' residences, and scheduled virtual sessions in the evening after requests by women so that they could attend. FAO collects gender-specific data and explains to partners’ the importance of having such data. The project also targets officials working in the system of the ministry of agriculture to enable them to understand, formulate, and implement decisions that are socially inclusive and take into consideration gender concerns.

Flora Poladova, national expert on rural outreach and inclusion, Azerbaijan

What are some of the lessons learned from your everyday work?

As part of the Central Asian Desert Initiative project team, FAO conducted interviews with beneficiaries in pilot areas to better understand their needs. Half of the respondents were women, and, based on their answers, the initiative organized trainings for them on income-generating activities, such as production of dairy, rural crafts, and vegetable and fruit growing. Greenhouses are distributed to smallholders to adapt to climatic shocks, including dust storms or unusual frosts. Given that rural women are those usually engaged in this type of work in the households, these investments are expected to sustain their livelihoods. This enriching experience helped women in rural communities, as well as the project team, to gain better knowledge of gender issues across different areas and sectors of Uzbekistan. In fact, this experience contributed to the personal development and future planning of FAO staff. For example, next time, FAO is planning to offer childcare facilities, so that women with small children can also participate in workshops.

Nariman Nishanov, project coordinator, Temurbek Reymov, coordinator of the interim Central Asian Desert Initiative Secretariat, and Nargizakhon Khujaeva, assistant to coordinator of the interim CADI Secretariat, Uzbekistan

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2. Zero hunger, 5. Gender equality