FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Gender Overview
  • Across the region, women play multiple roles in food systems as smallholder and family farmers, wage workers and – increasingly - as agri-preneurs and innovators. They also provide most of the “reproductive work” (i.e. childcare, food preparation, cleaning) that is essential to ensure the food security and nutrition of households and communities.
  • Paradoxically, however, women and girls are those more vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition as well as to the impacts of the multiple shocks and crises affecting the region.
  • The reasons of this vulnerability lie in the unequal gender relations that characterize food systems in the region. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the NENA region shows the widest gender gap. At the current rate of progress, it will take 142.4 years to close it.
  • Women, and especially rural and younger women, face greater constraints than their male counterparts in accessing essential productive resources and services, technology, market information and financial assets. They are under-represented in local institutions and governance mechanisms and tend to have less decision-making power. Prevailing gender norms and discrimination also often mean that women face an excessive work burden and mobility constraints and are more exposed to the risk of violence and sexual harassment.
  • Women and girls are also disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. In the region, women’s livelihoods are dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as subsistence agriculture, forestry and livestock. Women and girls also have less capacity and resources than men and boys to prepare for and adapt to climate change. For example, restrictions on women’s land ownership mean that many women do not have access to productive land to farm, while a lack of financial capital and access to technologies means they cannot easily diversify their livelihoods.
  • In line with its corporate Policy on Gender Equality 2020-2030, FAO aims at achieving gender equality between women and men in sustainable agriculture and rural development for the elimination of hunger and poverty.

FAO contributes to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment by:

  • Generating and disseminating evidence about rural women and the gender gaps in food systems
  • Promoting policy dialogue and providing technical advice to the formulation of gender-responsive policies and programmes in agriculture-related sectors
  • Raising awareness and disseminating knowledge on gender-transformative approaches and methodologies for agricultural and rural development interventions
  • Providing capacity development on how to effectively mainstream gender in key thematic areas of work
  • Partnering with other regional and national organizations active to advance the gender equality agenda in the region
  • Maintaining a Community of Practice on Gender and Food Systems in the NENA region
Facts & figures
  • The region continues to rank last globally on the Global Gender Gap Index
  • Globally, for 141 countries included in the analysis, the loss in human capital wealth due to gender inequality is estimated at $160.2 trillion if we simply assume that women would earn as much as men. This is about twice the value of GDP globally
  • Female labour force participation in the NENA region stands at around 20 percent compared with the global average of 47.3 percent
  • 23.5 percent of employed women work in agriculture compared to 17.6 percent of employed men – a ratio of 1.26 compared to the world average of 0.95 in 2019
  • Women own less than 7 percent of agricultural land and female landowners make up as little as 5 percent of property owners
  • Despite progress, 23 million of women in the NENA region remain unconnected. Women are still 16 per cent less likely than men to use mobile internet
  • A gender gap in the prevalence of moderate or severe food insecurity can be observed for many countries of the region
  • The prevalence of anaemia in women aged 15 to 49 was estimated at 33.2 percent in 2019 (latest estimate available), indicating overall a moderate public health issue in the region. However, anaemia remains a severe public health problem in the low-income countries as well as LDCs of the region. The highest prevalence of anaemia in women aged 15 to 49 years (61.5 percent) was recorded in Yemen, a low-income country.
Working Towards

Four Betters
Better Life

Regional Priorities 


  • SDG 5: Gender Equality
    • 5.a.1 (a) Percentage of people with ownership or secure rights over agricultural land (out of total agricultural population), by sex; and (b) share of women among owners or rights bearers of agricultural land, by type of tenure
    • 5.a.2 Percentage of countries where the legal framework (including customary law) guarantees women’s equal rights to land ownership and/or control