Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Ms. Clare Bishop

FAO Gender Consultant with the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division
United Kingdom

Feedback from the facilitator of the online discussion 

Dear all, 

Thank you to the early contributors for getting the discussion off to an interesting start.

The main challenge is to secure a mindset shift which several contributors noted: How to help rural women gain self-respect and understanding of their role (Ekaterine Gurgenidze from Georgia)? How to encourage young girls to know how important they are to society (Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania)? How to overcome the traditional division of work between women and men, with respect to productive tasks (Mahesh Chander from India) and reproductive and care tasks (Marcela Ballara from Chile)? How to move on from the ‘Technical know who’, for example, where the private sector uses men to solve women’s problems, rather than letting women work to solve their own challenges (Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania)?

Several pathways for change have been identified, including:

- The crucial role of education and training (especially for non-agricultural rural work) in empowering women to look for more skilled opportunities (Bertha Yiberla Yenwo from Cameroon, Marcela Ballara from Chile, Mahesh Chander from India, Dr. Amanullah from Pakistan, Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania);

- ICTs – and in particular smart phones with internet access – are also a game changer. As noted in India, social media are challenging social norms and encouraging women to be more assertive even though, at present, girls have less access to phones than boys.

- The feminisation of rural areas, as a result of male outmigration, is enabling women to be recognised as the principal decision-makers and actors in the rural areas (Marcela Ballara from Chile and Kala Koyu from Nepal).

- The growing agribusiness sector could engage more with women, working in groups to make their voice heard and supported by extension services reaching out to women and girls (Byansi Hamidu from Tanzania).

- The importance of an enabling policy environment, such as the Rural Women's Dialogue Table in Chile, which focused on the integration of rural women into economic activity.

But change is not without its challenges. Men can feel uncomfortable when traditional roles are challenged (Mahesh Chander from India) while women left to manage households in areas of male outmigration can be subject to negative public scrutiny and labelling which are degrading and demoralising (Kala Koyu from Nepal).

Working with both men and women can overcome some of this backlash to change and result in gender transformative impacts. The Gender Action Learning System (GALS) encourages men and women to have common visions at household level and to analyse family issues that can hinder the achievement of these visions (Mbuchi Peter from Kenya). Through enabling both women and men to appreciate the benefits of more equitable approaches, the productive potential of the family is unlocked.

Please share more examples of working with men and at household/family level to tackle the more fundamental causes of gender inequality.