FAO and AfDB host joint event on investing in gender equality to mitigate and prevent food crises and transform agrifood systems


During a side event co-organized by FAO and the African Development Bank (AfDB) on 15 March 2024 the sidelines of the 68th session of the Committee on the Status of Women (CSW68) at the United Nations headquarters in New York, speakers discussed innovative financing mechanisms and lessons learned from experiences at the country level that can contribute to the mitigation and prevention of food crises and transformation of agrifood systems in favor of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The side event aimed to highlight the critical role of financing for development in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment as a cornerstone to prevent and mitigate food crises and transform agrifood systems. The event was moderated by Clara Mi Young Park, Senior Gender Officer at FAO.

H.E. Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Senegal to the United Nations in New York, recalled the UN Secretary-General’s chair summary of the 2021 Food Systems Summit in which he called women the “backbone” of food systems.

“Today,” H.E. Niang went on to say, “this backbone is bearing the full brunt of the negative impacts of climate change, of the COVID-19 pandemic and of geopolitical tensions, hindering their access to inputs. All this, added to already developed economic, social and political disparities and inequalities in many developing countries, is making their situation very challenging.”

His words were echoed by the Permanent Representative of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, H.E. Olivier Maes, who emphasized the role of Luxembourg as a long-term advocate for gender equality as a prerequisite for poverty eradication and sustainable development. He spoke about financing initiatives undertaken to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality, such as the gender-focused bonds emitted by the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and the Luxembourg Green Exchange. 

FAO delved into the data and key findings from its ‘Status of Women in Agrifood Systems’ and ‘Unjust Climate’ reports to illustrate the lack of – and urgent need for – direct investment into gender programming from donors, governments and other actors.

“Whether we’re talking about bilateral donors, multilateral donors or line ministries that are working on agriculture, there is simply not enough money going towards closing these gender gaps – despite the fact that we know that investing in women can be a ‘silver bullet’: increasing food security, increasing household incomes, increasing resilience and increasing global GDP,” noted Lauren Phillips, Deputy Director of FAO’s Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division.

Phillips also presented FAO’s ‘Commit to Grow Equality’ initiative launched two days earlier on the margins of CSW68, which encourages stakeholders to commit to significant financing and partnerships that can increase gender equality and women's empowerment in agrifood systems, and highlighted the work FAO is conducting on Financing for Development.

Panelists then shared examples of successful strategies, policies and programmes in the area of gender-responsive finance for women’s empowerment, mitigation and prevention of food crises and the transformation of agrifood systems. The AfDB’s Chief Partnership Officer Cynthia Kamikazi highlighted the Bank’s strategic commitments to support the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) and Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT) initiatives, while Corinne Hart, Senior Gender Advisor for Energy, Environment, and Climate at USAID, spoke about the Climate Gender Equity Fund launched at COP27, and Ndaya Beltchika, Lead Technical Specialist Gender, Targeting and Social Inclusion at IFAD, presented the Gender Transformative Mechanism in the Context of Climate Adaptation.

Martha Phiri, Director of the Gender, Women and Civil Society Department at the AfDB, underscored the significant role played by agriculture in the economy of most African countries and the critical importance of bridging the financial gender gap across the continent. Delivering closing remarks, she said: “Together, we can do more. Let us reaffirm our commitment to collaboration and partnership to create a more equitable and prosperous future for African women in agriculture.”