Taking action to support rural women in agriculture

Turning the tide against hunger will require taking urgent action on gender inequality, one of the main obstacles to food and nutrition security, the Food and Agriculture Organization said on the eve of a high-level UN meeting on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

© FAO/A. Hafeez

28 June 2010, Rome – FAO, along with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) will call on participants at a major meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to press for concrete steps to boost investment in rural women and agriculture, in order to achieve national hunger reduction goals.

ECOSOC is the principal coordinator of the UN development system and the main body for formulating policy recommendations addressed to Member States and the UN system. It is focusing its 28 June-1 July Annual Ministerial Review on the theme, Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and empowerment of women.

The meeting comes two months before a major review at UN Headquarters of progress made towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The goals include MDG 1, to end poverty and hunger, and MDG 3, to promote gender equality and empower women.

“None of the internationally agreed development goals, including MDG 1, can be achieved without enabling the full and equal participation of rural women and men in all spheres of life, not only in the community, but also at the national and international decision-making levels. To do this we need to recognize the essential role that women must play in agriculture-led poverty reduction strategies and food security,” said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO’s Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division.

“If we are serious about reducing hunger and extreme poverty, we have to get serious about investment in agriculture and ensure that this investment creates equal opportunities for women and men. Governments and agencies need to work together to get past all the talk and take steps to meet the specific needs and priorities of both rural women and men,” Villarreal said.

“Some of the ways in which we can economically empower women is by improving their access to, and ownership of, land and other productive resources; improving the availability of information and agricultural technology, and tackling discrimination in access to decent employment,” Villarreal added.

A side-event jointly organized by FAO, IFAD and WFP will examine what Member States, UN agencies, civil society organizations and rural women themselves can do to overcome critical gaps in the advancement of rural women.

The discussion, themed From Dialogue to action: how to promote the empowerment of rural women in agriculture, will build on previous high-level discussions, including the 22 April Global Preparatory Meeting of ECOSOC at UN Headquarters, at which FAO and its partners actively drew rural women into the process.

The April meeting led to a list of proposed practical measures and policy options that take into account the distinct roles that women and men play in the rural economy, and that also enable women to more effectively play their economic, productive and reproductive roles. 

Specifically, the Dialogue to action event aims to look at what has proven to work and to:

• Strengthen the dialogue among Member States, UN Organizations and other stakeholders.
• Explore the effectiveness of internationally agreed recommendations, and those emerging from the Global Preparatory Meeting.
• Ensure that these priorities are reflected in the run-up to the September 2010 MDG review summit.

Partners affiliated with the organization of the Global Preparatory Meeting, including the World Bank, UNIFEM, WOCAN, the Hunger Project and the Huairou Commission will be invited to the event. These agencies and organizations have worked consistently with FAO, IFAD and WFP to actively include rural women’s issues in the development policy agenda and to highlight the intrinsic link between gender equality, the empowerment of women and hunger reduction.