International Women’s Day: FAO gender policy aims high

Better opportunities for women and girls means leverage in fight against hunger

8 March 2012, Rome – One of the keys to eradicating hunger and extreme poverty is to increase social, educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. A new Gender Equality Policy launched today by FAO aims to place the improvement of gender equality at the center of the UN agency’s work to boost sustainable agriculture and development.

FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva announced the new policy as he took part in this year’s International Women’s Day event, held at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Each year, on a rotating basis FAO, IFAD and the World Food Programme — all headquartered in Rome, Italy — mark the day in a joint observance.

“FAO's gender policy underscores the Organization’s commitment to addressing gender and women’s issues to eradicate hunger and poverty,” said Graziano da Silva.

FAO asserts that the empowerment of women could raise their farm productivity by 20-30 percent, increase national agricultural output by 2.5 to 4.0 percent, and ultimately, lift 100-150 million people out of hunger.

Gender equality objectives

FAO will work with countries, UN agencies, and bilateral civil society, private sector partners and academia to make progress toward achieving the following objectives by 2025:

1. Women and men participate equally as decision-makers in rural institutions and in shaping laws, policies and programs.

2. Women and men have equal access to and control over decent employment and income, land and other productive resources.

3. Women and men have equal access to goods and services for agricultural development  and to markets.

4. Women’s work burden is reduced by 20 percent through improved technologies, services and infrastructure.

5. The percentage of agricultural aid committed to women/gender-equality related projects is increased to 30 percent of total agricultural aid.

While countries themselves bear the main responsibility for achieving gender equality objectives, FAO will plan, implement and monitor its programmes and policies to ensure that they contribute to achieving those aims.

The new FAO policy recommends targets for increasing the organization’s effectiveness in addressing gender imbalances, including incorporating sex-disaggregated data into all major FAO statistical databases by 2015 (where relevant and available) and allocating 30 percent of FAO’s operational work and budget at the country and regional levels to targeted, women-specific interventions by 2017.

In a further bid to enhance its effectiveness, FAO is also in the process of finalizing a human resources plan designed to help achieve its corporate objective of 50 percent female representation among all internationally recruited, professional staff worldwide. The objective is in keeping with standards throughout the UN system.

Photo: ©FAO/Farooq Naeem
Women work together on an agriculture project.