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

Dear contributors and followers,

Thank you all for your contributions during the last three weeks which have resulted in a rich discussion.

There have been 66 individual contributors, representing over 30 countries and a mixture of organisations, multilateral and bilateral agencies, NGOs, research institutes, colleges and universities. It has been encouraging to see so many men actively engaged in the discussion – accounting for 25% of the total contributors – because this is the path to gender transformative impacts. A detailed review of the proceedings will be prepared over the coming weeks. The principal findings will be discussed at an Expert Group Meeting which will be held in Rome in September, as part of the preparatory activities for the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2018.

Consequently, in this short piece, I have decided to focus on the inter-play between new opportunities and the constraints imposed by social norms. One such example is male outmigration. The movement of men away from rural areas in search of employment, and many rural women becoming the primary farmer, could be seen as an opportunity to create space for women to become more involved in economic activities and redefine their role in the agriculture sector. This may take place in the short-term, as women step in to fill the gap left by their male counterparts – partly out of necessity but partly taking advantage of the opportunity. They get involved in new areas of business, engage with the market and broaden their networks and horizons. But in the longer term, their dreams and professional aspirations risk to be reined in by persistent social norms. Their new behaviour may be considered to be unacceptable, colliding with the idea that a women’s place should be in the home, that they should not be making independent decisions, etc.

A major thread throughout this discussion has been the recognition of the need to address the root causes of gender inequalities in order to achieve sustainable development. Behaviour change, based on a full understanding of the meaning of gender equality - of a just and equal world for all - is crucial. It has been exciting to read of so many different approaches being used to stimulate gender transformative change at the individual, household and community levels. These will be explored in more detail in the follow-up actions.

Once again, thank you for your contributions. There is still time to post contributions or to send them to [email protected] by Friday 11 August; after that date, the discussion will be closed.

We look forward to sharing the synthesis report with you in due course.

Clare Bishop