Gender in Food and Nutrition Security: putting gender equality at the centre of agricultural development

FAO's new e-learning course aims to strengthen capacity in member countries for designing, developing, implementing and evaluating truly gender-responsive policies, programmes and projects in food and nutrition security.

© FAO / Filipe Branquinho


Launched last week, “Gender in Food and Nutrition Security” is the result of the combined efforts of a multidisciplinary team of international and local practitioners, led and coordinated by FAO's Social Protection Division, together with the Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development. It is the latest in a series of courses developed under the EU-FAO programme “Improved Global Governance for Hunger Reduction”. We sat down with Ilaria Sisto, FAO Gender and Development Officer and Lead Technical Coordinator for the course, to learn more:

Can you tell us why and how the idea for such a course came about?

For some time now, there has been strong recognition among FAO's member countries of the importance of gender equality in development planning and programming for food and nutrition security. But in many of these countries there is general lack of capacity when it comes to the design and implementation of truly gender-responsive policies and programmes, and in the generation of sex-disaggregated data on food and nutrition security to inform, support or evaluate them.

In essence, the course was designed to address this gap and respond to these needs. It will enable policy-makers and development practitioners at country-level to better address gender equality issues in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of food and nutrition security policies, programmes and projects. And it will support statisticians in producing the kind of sex-disaggregated data and gender-sensitive statistics that are needed for improved policy and programme development.

Of course, the course is also meant to strengthen capacity among development practitioners and humanitarian officers in international organizations. FAO staff is strongly encouraged to take this course, as part of their learning programme.

Who are the target audiences, and how is the course structured to serve their needs?

The course was designed to meet the needs of policy- and decision-makers in ministries responsible for food and nutrition security, and of programme and project staff and other development / humanitarian practitioners in the government, NGO, civil society and private sectors, as well as in FAO and other international organizations.

Fourteen lessons are spread across three units: Overview of gender concepts and principles, Gender in Food and nutrition security policy and legislation, and Gender in food and nutrition security programming. Specific topics include the production of gender statistics, gender analysis frameworks for policy and programme design, and the formulation of gender advocacy strategies to influence food and nutrition security policies and legislation.

The course features practical tools, case studies and lessons learned from past development and humanitarian interventions. The modular design allows for self-paced learning, so that learners can pick and choose individual lessons to build specific skills depending on their work-related responsibilities, tasks and interests.

How do you envision the ways in which the course will ultimately impact and affect rural women in developing regions?

By applying the knowledge acquired through this course, learners can formulate policies and design and implement programmes that not only avoid re-enforcing existing gender inequalities, but actually reduce them, ensuring that men and women farmers in the developing world benefit equally from such policies and programmes, and have equal access to the resources, services and opportunities they need.

Can you tell us a little about how the course was developed?

The course was developed through a participatory and multidisciplinary process. In January 2013, together with the Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development, we organized a consultative workshop at FAO headquarters, bringing together 25 experts from 15 national and international institutions. We selected these participants based not only on their experience and knowledge of gender and food security issues, but also in terms of how well they represented the needs of the audiences we had in mind. Through the workshop, we were able to identify the broad course objectives, the specific target audiences, and the knowledge and skill areas that needed coverage among those target audiences – especially in terms of their spheres of work and responsibilities.

The curriculum outline was consolidated in March, and authors were identified for the different lessons. We used a system of peer review and feedback (including FAO colleagues and Gender Focal Points, fellow authors and other stakeholders) to edit, revise and refine the lessons’ drafts into finished content. FAO's Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development then designed and developed a fully-fledged interactive e-learning course, in collaboration with our subject matter experts.

Click here to access the course.