Guatemala's Ministry of Agriculture approves first-ever Policy on Gender Equality

For the first time in its history, Guatemala's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food has a comprehensive Policy on Gender Equality.

© FAO / R. Grisolia

Developed with the support of FAO, IFAD, UN Women and WFP, the Institutional Policy for Gender Equality and Strategic Implementation Framework 2014-2023 represents the Ministry's commitment to systematically mainstream gender in all areas of its work, including its institutional mechanisms and with special emphasis on integrated rural development and food security and nutrition programmes and processes.

Approved in March by José Sebastián Marcucci Ruíz, Guatemala's Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food, the new Policy also represents a key milestone in Guatemala's implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

FAO Gender and Development Officer Hajnalka Petrics has been involved in the process since it first began in 2013. This week, she stopped by to explain the Organization's role in developing Guatemala's new Policy, and how the implementation of CEDAW can result in improved food and nutrition security for women and men in rural areas... 

How did all this begin?

In September of 2013 the Government of Guatemala requested technical assistance for the country's recently-established Special Cabinet for Women (Gabinete Especifico de la Mujer) – in particular, the Cabinet's work on implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

How does CEDAW fit into the larger picture of ensuring food and nutrition security in rural areas?

We know that gender equality and the empowerment of rural women are key to eradicating hunger, malnutrition and rural poverty. CEDAW is the only international human rights treaty that addresses rural women directly and specifically through its Article 14. It recognizes the critical roles that women play in the development of rural economies and societies at large and in ensuring food security and nutrition and the need to improve the recognition and protection of their rights worldwide.

States that ratified the Convention commit themselves to plan and undertake specific measures to combat discrimination against women in rural areas. In this sense, CEDAW can serve as a framework for national action to end such discrimination. Its implementation can serve as a pathway to rural women's empowerment and gender equality. This, in turn, helps to create an enabling environment for greater food and nutrition security – for both men and women – in rural communities.

What was FAO's role in developing the Policy and what did the process entail?

Different FAO offices – including the FAO Representation in Guatemala, the Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean and FAO headquarters – worked together to support the Policy formulation. We worked with the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food to revise the draft Policy, ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment can be factored into the implementation plan of the National Integrated Rural Development Policy and that a gender-sensitive approach is foreseen in the provision of agricultural and rural extension services. The policy also provides strategic guidance for gender-sensitive food and nutrition programmes.

However, this was only the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the work of revising and refining the Policy, FAO's support involved a three-pronged approach to creating an institutional framework in which the Policy could then be implemented:

First, we focused on capacities within the Ministry itself. We worked with twenty Ministry directors on capacity assessment and awareness-raising around CEDAW, Article 14, and the Ministry’s related obligations, to make sure that the perspectives of rural women are considered in the planning and implementation of food security and rural development projects and programs.

Next, we looked beyond the Ministry. Because rural women face multiple challenges in many spheres of life – including health and sanitation, literacy and education, employment, land, etc. – the full and meaningful implementation of CEDAW’s Article 14 requires coordination across a range of entities.

This is why we facilitated a multi-stakeholder workshop with representatives from the gender units of the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Health and Social Prevention, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, as well as organizational representatives from the National Forestry Institution, the Secretariat of Agrarian Affairs, the National Office for Women, the Central National School of Agriculture, the Secretariat of Food Security and Nutrition, and The Land Fund. The idea was to bring these groups together for the first time to discuss the unique challenges faced by rural women in each of their different sectors, and to outline opportunities for ongoing coordination and collaboration.

In particular, the workshop resulted in the establishment of an ongoing "Technical Group on women in rural development in the framework of Article 14 of CEDAW." This group will focus on continued coordination among the sectoral ministries involved in implementing Article 14 and in formulating gender-sensitive policies on national food security and rural development.

Lastly, we organized a meeting with a key civil society organization representing rural indigenous Guatemalan women – the Rural Women’s Alliance (Alianza de Mujeres Rurales). Again, it was the first time staff from the Gender Unit of the Ministry met with representatives from the Alliance and heard their perspectives on the living conditions of rural indigenous women.

What's next?

The approval of the Policy is of course a major milestone. But in many ways the work has only just begun. The Gender Unit of the Ministry has requested FAO's continued technical support in moving forward with the Policy, including the development of the Policy’s implementation, monitoring and evaluation plans.  FAO will also assist in the capacity development of Ministry staff towards formulating, monitoring and evaluating gender-responsive food security programmes and projects.


FAO Guatemala: Diego Recalde, FAO Representative

FAO headquarters: Hajnalka Petrics, Gender and Development Officer