Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)


Consultation for the development of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition

An increasing number of people are not able to realize their right to adequate food. In 2020, between 720 and 811 million people in the world faced hunger, up to 161 million more than in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionally affected women and girls, in part as a result of gender inequality and discrimination. In this context, urgent actions are needed to address the challenges, gaps and barriers that hinder progress in achieving gender equality and the full realization of women’s and girls’ rights in the context of food security and nutrition.

Advancing gender equality and women's and girls' empowerment is critical to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the vision of the Committee of World Food Security (CFS) of ending hunger and ensuring food security and nutrition for all. To guide progress on gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, CFS at its 46th Session in October 2019 decided to develop Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition.

The Guidelines are intended to support governments, development partners and other stakeholders to advance gender equality, women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment, as part of their efforts to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, through appropriate policies, investments and institutional arrangements. They aim to foster greater policy coherence between gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, and food security and nutrition agendas, and promote mutually reinforcing policy measures.

Following the endorsement of the Terms of Reference for the Guidelines by the Committee in February 2021, a Zero Draft of the Guidelines has been prepared as a basis for a consultative process, which includes six regional consultations (Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Central Asia, Near East, Africa, Asia and Pacific and North America) and this electronic consultation.

CFS now invites all actors involved in addressing food insecurity and malnutrition1  to provide feedback on the Zero Draft of the Guidelines, which is made up of four parts:

  1. The first part provides the background and rationale of the Guidelines, their objectives and information on their nature as well as their intended users.
  2. The second part presents the core principles that underpin the Guidelines, taking into account the CFS Vision of ending hunger and ensuring food security and nutrition for all, and for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.
  3. The third part is organized into nine sections/themes. Each section presents a problem statement, a narrative and related policy areas for discussion. This part is intended to frame the discussions in the consultations and inform the preparation of the upcoming versions of the document. It presents initial ideas regarding the issues and topics to be considered and discussed by CFS stakeholders.
  4. The fourth part includes provisions regarding the implementation of the future Guidelines and the monitoring of their use and application.

In providing comments on the Zero Draft of the Guidelines, you are invited to focus on the following guiding questions:

  • Does the Zero Draft appropriately capture the main challenges and barriers that hinder progress in achieving gender equality and the full realization of women’s and girls’ rights in the context of food security and nutrition? If not, what do you think is missing or should be adjusted?
  • Does Part 2 of the Zero Draft satisfactorily reflect the core principles which should underpin the Guidelines? If not, how do you propose to improve these principles?
  • Do the nine sections of Part 3 of the Zero Draft comprehensively cover the policy areas to be addressed to achieve gender equality and the full realization of women’s and girls’ rights in the context of food security and nutrition? If not, what do you think is missing?
  • Does Part 4 of the Zero Draft provide all the elements necessary for effective implementation and monitoring of the use and application of the Guidelines? If not, what do you propose to add or change?

Comments are accepted in all UN languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).

The outcomes of the consultation process will contribute to the preparation of the First Draft of the Voluntary Guidelines, which will be negotiated in spring 2022. The final version of the Guidelines will be presented for endorsement by the CFS Plenary at its 50th Session in October 2022.

Thank you very much for engaging in this critical process to ensure all voices are heard in the development of the Guidelines.

We look forward to receiving your valued input to make these guidelines a reality.

Françoise Trine, Marina Calvino and Alyson Brody

CFS Secretariat

[1] These include governments; intergovernmental and regional organizations, including UN agencies and bodies; civil society, private sector; research institutions and academia; development agencies, including international financial institutions and philanthropic foundations.

This activity is now closed. Please contact [email protected] for any further information.

* Click on the name to read all comments posted by the member and contact him/her directly
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Message from the facilitator 

Dear all,

We would like to thank all CFS stakeholders and FSN Forum Members who have provided their contributions on the Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition via this online consultation.

We are very satisfied with the positive response to our call, with 113 contributions received.

We also appreciated the male contributions to this process, which on these issues is not obvious and often in the minority, a special thanks!

Your diverse comments are really precious and informative, they contributed to strengthen the structure and contents of the Zero Draft and have also provided us with several interpretations of the same issues and included further perspectives; they often provided better clarity on priorities and actions to be taken.

We also appreciated very much the references to good practices, carried out in the context of projects and programs at regional, national and local level, promoted by governments, CSOs, and the private sector, and the analyses offered by various experts and exponents of the academic world.

Some experiences are truly encouraging and inspiring, others make us understand how there is need for greater innovation and much more attention to solve many of the problems and barriers experienced by women and girls, in all regions of the world.

Your input will be taken into account in preparing the First Draft of the Voluntary Guidelines that will be presented to an open meeting early next year.

Thank you very much for having participated with your time and expertise in this process, in the inclusive perspective that distinguishes the CFS mission, and that has enriched us a lot!

Follow next steps of this process on our CFS Gender Equality and Women's and Girl's Empowerment Workstream webpage.

With my best regards,

Marina Calvino

CFS Secretariat

Contribution by Rosario Castro, Brooke Feldman and Lilian Nkengla


Background and Rationale

The background and rational is really comprehensive addressing most challenges to achieve gender equality and the full realization of women’s and girls’ rights.

Safe guarding

  • There should be a mention of how to design and implement this work with the risk of aid workers and the projects causing unintentional harm- not just through sexual exploitation and abuse. My suggestion is to include looking at the safe delivery of transformative work- especially in food insecure environments where people are more vulnerable- and how that’s including in the MEAL plans, program design, personnel, and budgets.
  • The background and rational is very comprehensive and covers many areas, however, there seems to be less mention of the political economy of food systems which focuses on power in food chains. For instance, big commodity buyers and food manufacturing companies are ideally placed to pit farmers against farmers, as their foodshed (the range of suppliers they source from) expanded, and to impose on farmers compliance with certain standards that make it even more difficult for small-scale producers particularly women to compete.  Largest agri-food corporations controlling global supply chains, gradually are able to strengthen their dominant position by network effects, by standard-setting, and by their ability to control the logistics of supply chains (Naseem, Spielman and Omamo 2010).
  • “The political economy approach to food systems insists on the need to address power in food chains. This is in part because of a basic concern with equity: since small-scale farmers [including women] are gradually being squeezed out of business in rich countries, and constitute a large proportion, perhaps even a majority, of the hungry in the global South, strengthening their position in food chains would make a significant contribution to the ability of peasant agriculture to develop, as well as to the reduction of rural poverty. But addressing the question of power in food chains is not simply a matter of protecting the weakest party in the relationships between the different actors of food systems; it also is in the general interest.” Excerpt from De Schutter O. 2019.  Suggest this article: De Schutter O. 2019.  The political Approach to food systems reform. IDS Bulletin, Transforming Development Knowledge, Vol. 50 No. 2 (2019). It is a human right.
  • Issues on production such as access to and decision-making over land, inputs, productive resources and services with very limited information on value chains e.g SMEs, local markets, market relationships and networks, food processing and trading space and consumers.

Part 3 - Comments with reference to Part 3 - Zero Draft

3.1 Women’s participation, voice and leadership in policy- and decision-making at all levels.

34. “When women have control over the family income, it is more likely to be spent on food and well-being for their children.” Although is true that women economic empowerment has a direct impact to the well-being of their family and children, I wonder how does relate also with the direct well-being of women themselves. Does access to family impacts women’s greater access to food for themselves and therefore for their nutrition and well-being?

3.2.  Elimination of violence and discrimination against women for improved food security and nutrition

42. The text could make a greater case to describe or develop deeper the links between violence and discrimination against women and its direct link with food security and nutrition. 42 y 44 should go together since addressing the same issue.

A topic missing in this policy area related to the existence of violence and discrimination in the workplace (farms, agricultural plantations, agricultural and food processing farms). There is evidence of the high prevalence of violence against women in the agricultural workplace, but the guidelines do not necessary address this issue. This area could be in 3.2 or 3.6.

Access to education, capacity building, training, knowledge, and information services

  • This area not necessarily address the lack of education institutions in rural and agricultural areas that leads to the displacement of rural population to urban areas, leaving behind population with less access to connection and resources (women and girls with less resources).
  • Lack of childcare services for women workers
  • Harmful social norms hindering the participation of women/girls 

Access to labour markets and decent work

  • Rural women or women farmers work in a greater extend in some regions of the world (such as Latin America) as an unpaid family worker (or in exchange of food or supplies), lacking direct access to resources, income and recognition of their work. Existence of child labor.
  • Labor exploitation in a greater extend in industrial agriculture and agricultural value chains. Long hours, low incomes with few benefits if any. Paradoxically, women working in food production do not consume the food their produce since most of this goes for exports. 

3.7 Recognition, reduction and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work

  • Need of childcare facilities for female laborers and care related benefits (paid and family leave, maternity leave)
  • The text focus in the gender division of labor but not necessarily explore the challenges experienced by agricultural workers and farmer to do both agricultural intense agricultural labor activities (specially in industrial agriculture) and unpaid care labor.  The intensity of agricultural labor in plantations and processing plants added to the care responsibilities have a negative impact in women’s lives and well-being (having women no time for eat or sleep).
  • Women and girls from rural areas are often employed in (under) paid and domestic care work in conditions of exploitation (and in some cases semi-servitude) affecting their well-being, access to decent income and food.

There is not mention to a policy area that address situations related to conflict and crisis.


Under the third part of the zero draft of guidelines in point no 3.4 strict gender transformative government policies are desired towards equalizing access to productive resources, markets, income, credits, land and resource ownerships by eliminating or leveraging female male differences. (Despite significant advancement towards equality in inheritance laws, women are found to constitute barely 14% of landowners owning 11% of agricultural land in rural landowning households, averaged across states of India (Agarwal et al 2021).

Under point no 3.7, besides measuring and recognizing the financial value of unpaid work and its inclusion within national statistics, a policy for equal right of income towards unpaid work or gender transformative policy is desired to share the unpaid work amongst the male and female within the household.

Under point no 3.5, a policy recommendation for inclusion of equal rights and access to Green Budget /Green Income (Rs ha-1) i.e. Net income ± Environmental cost as poor people specially women are the worst sufferers of climate change although the contribute least to its degradation. Women are mainly involved in low input production systems and are conserving traditional seeds/breeds. Gender transformative capacity building programmes are desired for enhancing the farm efficiency/productivity.

*Environmental cost = Price due to the positive impacts or cost due to the negative impacts.

Anne Wetlesen

Department for Climate and Environment
  • Norway commends the open and consultative process behind these guidelines and the opportunities for stakeholders to provide comments.
  • We firmly support the need for guidance on these issues, though we look forward to the day when we can call such guidelines just that, without including ‘voluntary’.
  • The guidelines are comprehensive, and we strongly support the human rights based and gender transformative approach being taken. We encourage even more concrete guidance on how interventions for women’s rights and gender equality in the context can be truly transformative. For this to become a reality, we need to develop policy and interventions that challenge established informal and formal structures at a societal level.
  • We support the inclusion of language on LHBTIQ in the guidelines, as well as more concrete language on disability and other grounds of practiced discrimination. If the guidelines are to really adopt a human rights-based approach, the human rights of everyone must be protected.

Amal Al-Abbadi

Al-Balqa' Applied University

In my opinion the zero draft covered all important aspects that relate to gender issues. But it is necessary to focus on how women, especially in the poor and middle classes, can obtain adequate support to run small private projects that will generate good income for them and their families, with the development of an integrated marketing plan to bridge the gap and find appropriate solutions. 

It is also necessary to work to correct the concept of women's empowerment, which is understood as watering down men and not as support for the family, and working to find the best ways to manage the family and society in a more civilized manner.

Adeline Razoeliarisoa

Ministère de l'Agriculture et de l'Elevage

English translation below

Bonsoir à tous

D’abord, je félicite toutes les personnes impliquées dans l'élaboration de cette version zéro des directives. C’est un bon travail. Pourtant, merci de trouver ci après mes contributions à l’amélioration de ce document :

Partie 1. Cette version zéro capture-t-elle de manière appropriée les principaux défis et obstacles qui entravent les progrès en matière d'égalité des genres et de pleine réalisation des droits des femmes et des filles dans le contexte de la sécurité alimentaire et de la nutrition ? Si la réponse est négative, quels sont selon vous les éléments manquants ou à ajuster ?

  • Les éléments clés manquent dans la partie 1 : c’est l'inégalité de l’accessibilité à la vulgarisation agricole et à l'information des femmes dans les pays africains où le taux d’analphabète est encore élevé.
  • De plus, un autre défi c’est l’encouragement de la participation des femmes et des filles dans la prise de décision et d’avoir la capacité d’être leaders.
  • Enfin, les Directives devront voûter la pratique de l'égalité des sexes et l'autonomisation des femmes dans la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition et systèmes alimentaires (dimension sécurité alimentaire, santé et eau à refléter dans cette partie).

La partie 2 de la version zéro reflète-t-elle de manière satisfaisante les principes fondamentaux qui doivent sous-tendre les Directives ? Si la réponse est négative, que proposez-vous pour améliorer ces principes ?

Je pense que ces principes fondamentaux sont satisfaisants mais ils sont un peu nombreux.

Les neuf sections de la partie 3 de la version zéro couvrent-elles de manière exhaustive les domaines politiques à aborder pour parvenir à l’égalité des genres et à la pleine réalisation des droits des femmes et des filles dans le contexte de la sécurité alimentaire et de la nutrition? Si la réponse est négative, quels sont, selon vous, les éléments manquants ?

La politique de faciliter l’acquisition de femmes de terrain à cultiver ou accessibilité des femmes à la terre.

La partie 4 de la version zéro fournit-elle tous les éléments nécessaires à une mise en œuvre et un suivi efficaces de l'utilisation et de l'application des Directives ? Si la réponse est négative, quels sont les éléments que vous proposez d'ajouter ou de modifier ?

  • Pour le suivi et évaluation, il faut que les indicateurs soient des indicateurs qu’on peut mesurer et vérifier au niveau national et selon les priorités du pays avec l’implication des multisectoriel dans le pays. Le souci que les pays n’ont de base données et collectes des données sont difficiles.
  • Encourager le gouvernement aussi, sur la coordination des activités entreprises
  • Nous profitons de cette occasion pour féliciter toutes les personnes impliquées dans l'élaboration de ces directives et restons disponibles au cas où notre équipe pourrait fournir un soutien supplémentaire.
  • Good evening to all,

    First of all, I would like to congratulate all those involved in the development of version zero of the Guidelines. It is a good job. However, please find below my contributions to the improvement of this document:

    Part 1. Does this draft zero adequately capture main challenges and obstacles to the progress in gender equality and the full realisation of women's and girls' rights in the context of food security and nutrition? If not, what do you think is missing or needs to be adjusted?

  • The key elements missing in Part 1 are the unequal access to agricultural extension and outreach for women in African countries where the illiteracy rate is still high.
  • In addition, another challenge is the encouragement of women's and girls' participation in decision-making and leadership.
  • Finally, the Guidelines will have to fit in the practice of gender equality and women's empowerment in food security and nutrition and food systems (food security, health and water dimensions to be reflected in this part).

Does Part 2 of draft zero adequately reflect the fundamental principles that should underpin the Guidelines? If not, what would you suggest to improve these principles?

I think that these fundamental principles are satisfactory, but their number is a bit excessive.

Do the nine sections of Part 3 of draft zero comprehensively cover the policy areas that need to be addressed to achieve gender equality and the full realisation of women's and girls' rights in the context of food security and nutrition? If not, what do you think are the missing elements?

The policy to facilitate women's acquisition of land for cultivation or women's access to land.

Does Part 4 of draft zero provide all the elements necessary for effective implementation and monitoring of the use and application of the Guidelines? If not, what elements do you propose to add or change?

  • For monitoring and evaluation, it is necessary that the indicators could be measured and verified at the national level and according to the country's priorities with the multisectoral engagement in a country. The concern is that countries do not have a database and data collection is difficult.
  • Encourage the government also towards the coordination of undertaken activities
  • We take this opportunity to congratulate all those involved in the development of these guidelines and we remain available should our team be able to provide further support.

My views on 3.2 & 3.6

  1. The time and energy devoted by women in the food security process is not yet rightly evaluated internationally as the day of women begins in the kitchen and ends in kitchen and the rest also devoted in the agricultural field, but all efforts are neglected due to their silent voice. So I appeal to the international community to evaluate their efforts.
  2. More focus should be on 3E (Education, Ecology and Economics) as a lack of proper education and less access to ecology will lead to a degraded economy. So for zero hunger 3E should be given priority.
  3. The youth (men, women & PLD (people living with disabilities) needs to be updated with advanced technologies so as to improve the agricultural production through Climate Smart Agriculture, as climate change now becomes a big threat to farming and related a tivities. So I appeal before international communities to focus on PFT (Patent Free Technology) across the globe in agriculture and climate change sector so that poor youth engaged in farming and food security process will get proper knowledge to combat climate change.
  4. If we really want to empower women involved in the agriculture sector, then in my opinion the products of agricultural farms run by women, should be labeled with the name and place of that women before marketing globally.

Consultation for the development of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition

As a document aimed at Gender Equality in the context of Food Security and Nutrition, these contributions to are based on two main aspects that should be more probed in the document: (i) not only girls and women, but also men and boys must also be seen as targets of attention to achieve the main objective. Which means set goals including men and boys in all items; (ii) empowering women is also about teaching them what they are capable of which means change the way how tell the stories to children emphasizing women’s relevance in all areas of knowledge. 

These issues are contemplated in the document, but I would like to address specific topics about them:

  • Item 3.1 Women’s participation, voice and leadership in policy- and decision-making at all levels

In topic 34, about women’s decision-making power on household spending patterns, it should be noted that prioritize women to have control over the family income with the aim of ensuring better quality food and well-being for their children can contributes to reinforce gender stereotypes.  Men and boys should be fostered to equally share domestic and care work at the households with women, which includes: 

  1. Encourage national policies about education of boys teaching them about be functional and take responsibility about their children;
  2. To encourage “parental leave” where the full leave period is for the couple (both man and woman), as is the case, for example, in Sweden;   
  3. Ensure equity of opportunities for girls and women in different learning spaces but also in work environments, ensuring their presence in leadership as well.

It should be considered these goals will represent a huge change in culture that will demand time and different investments for many countries. Each one should take the step that can handle each time. 

  • Item 3.3 Access to education, capacity building, training, knowledge and information services

In topic 54, subtopic ii: “Gender-transformative education systems to promote gender equality and deliver more equitable education results for girls and boys through safe and healthy learning environments”.

Besides to provide better opportunities for women at urban and rural areas, it should be emphasized that gender-transformative education systems includes changing the way to telling stories for children both boys and girls since people are empowered when they see their potential in similar ones. 

Thus, girls and boys need to know women who made important contributions in all different areas of knowledge. Children must know that, even in an adverse context, many women managed to dedicate themselves to some cause and made the best of it. As a few examples, the stories of women like Marie Curie, Emmy Noether and Rosalind Franklin should be telling as much as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. 

Empowering women is also about teaching them what they are capable of, telling the story in ways that appreciate the role of diverse women in all areas not only in the areas related to care and charity. Telling that even in an adverse context, many women managed to dedicate themselves to some area, as Sciences, and made the best of it. 

Empowering women could also decreased violence against women since empowered women do not believe they need to have a male partner, and experience less abusive situations for a long time. This topic also must include training of professional who are involved in assisting women, including women victims of violence, since discriminatory forms of care for women still predominate in health services, specifically in developing countries. It is necessary to guarantee to these women a safe and welcoming environment that promotes their psychological recovery and reintegration into the labor market, whenever possible.

  • Breastfeeding

Although breastfeeding is cited in this document, and it is contemplated in other specific documents, it should have a topic dedicated to it considering women who choose to be mothers. Breastfeeding can substantially contribute to reducing food insecurity in households, promotes sustainability and, when stimulated from a woman's perspective, can empower women as well. 

To empower women during breastfeeding means giving voice to women and their needs during this period, which are often silenced at the expense of the child's needs. Understand women’s experience of life is urgent to give the ideal support and promote breastfeeding:

  • Do not stimulate a romantic view of this act, giving the woman adequate support to face the problems that may occur. Support should range from returning home after delivery until the woman feels safe and comfortable, as is already the case in some countries. 
  • Cultural factors as excessive sexualization of female breast should also be a target once this can influence the act of breastfeeding in public. 
  • On this topic, men also should be included considering their relevance on support women during this period but also their role as actors in the fields of gender, sexuality and parenthood.   

Santosh Kumar Mishra

Population Education Resource Centre, Department of Lifelong Learning and Extension

I am pleased to submit herewith my inputs for the Consultation for the development of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition. I hope that you (your team) will find my contribution (which are in MS Word, 9 pages) interesting & meaningful, in academic and research terms.