FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

UN Gender Group in Russia: helping protect women rights

Photo: © OHCHR

On 28 November 2023, the UN House in Moscow held an extended meeting of the UN Theme Group on Gender in the Russian Federation dedicated to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the UN Secretary-General campaign called 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The message of UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women states the theme of the campaign and the actions that need to be taken:

“This year’s theme of the UNiTE campaign – ‘Invest to Prevent Violence against Women and Girls’ – calls on all of us to take action: support legislation and comprehensive policies that strengthen the protection of women’s rights across the board; ramp up investments in prevention and support to women’s rights organization; listen to survivors and end impunity for perpetrators everywhere; stand with women activists and promote women’s leadership at every stage of decision-making.”

“Together, let us stand up and speak out. Let’s build a world that refuses to tolerate violence against women anywhere, in any form, once and for all,” the UN Secretary-General’s message says.

Olga Salova, Programme Specialist of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Moscow, acted as the moderator of the event. Rashid Aluash, who is responsible for the Joint programme of the Russian Federation and OHCHR, welcomed the audience. He highlighted the significance and goals of the event of the UN Theme Group in Russia.

“Every year, we hold this event dedicated to the campaign of the UN Secretary-General, which brings together not only representatives of the UN country team, but also national partners, including representatives of civil society. These days, important events are being held around the world to raise awareness about the severe problem of violence against women.

This year the focus is on the importance of funding various strategies that aim to prevent violence against women. Today we are going to touch upon the urgency of the problem of violence, prevention and emergency response measures, and assistance to victims of violence,” Rashid Aluash said.

Anna Benoit, Communication Specialist and Gender Focal Point, represented the FAO Moscow Office at the meeting. She spoke about the actions of FAO regarding gender equality and rural women empowerment.

“FAO believes that women and men together play a pivotal role in ending hunger, malnutrition and poverty. However, the gender gap in food and agriculture is still wide. In any region of the world, women are much more likely to become food insecure than men.”

Anna Benoit gave the meeting participants a detailed introduction to the activities of the FAO Women’s Committee: “On 15 October 2019, on the International Day of Rural Women, the first in FAO history Women’s Committee was established on the initiative of FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. It comprised women working in the Organization’s headquarters in Rome, regional and country offices, and liaison offices worldwide. The Committee is headed by Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General. The Committee follows the principle of inclusivity in its activities, allowing everyone, without any exceptions, to participate in ensuring women’s rights.

“The Committee aims to empower women working in FAO, organizes seminars and workshops for employees. For example, Committee’s thematic events include a regular VirtualiTea where the workers can share their experiences and express their opinions. In addition, the Committee is a platform for dialogue on women’s issues with FAO member countries,” Anna Benoit added.

The Communication Specialist of the FAO Moscow Office spoke about the FAO contribution to raising awareness about gender violence and women empowerment, in particular, about the FAO elearning Academy with free multilingual courses on gender issues in food security and nutrition.

Anna Benoit informed the meeting participants about an FAO document that serves as a useful tool for promoting efforts to eliminate inequality: “In accordance with the priorities set in the international agenda, the FAO Policy on Gender Equality 2020–2030, first approved in 2012, provides a corporate framework for focusing the technical and normative work of the Organization on achieving clear gender equality goals relevant to its mandate.”

Our representative cited FAO statistics on gender issues from the latest Status of Women in Agrifood Systems review.

“Agrifood systems are a major source of employment for both women and men. They employ 36% of working women and 38% of working men in the world. While in 2019 the gap between men and women in terms of food security was 1.7%, in 2021 the figure reached 4.3%. If we compare incomes of agricultural wage workers, we will see that women get 82 cents for every dollar earned by men.”

Talking about the gender work of the FAO Office in Moscow, she noted that “our office has achieved gender balance, with women making up half of the workforce. We actively disseminate information about FAO events and other initiatives in the area of gender equality. Our website publishes interviews with leading Russian specialists – women in science, youth envoys for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Russia, and Indigenous Women. This May we issued the first gender newsletter (available in Russian only) featuring a number of FAO publications on this topic for a wide audience.”

Pereira Carneiro Wellington, Senior Legal Advisor, and Natalya Sinyukova, Legal Department Specialist, talked about the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) regarding prevention of violence against women and girls in Russia.

“There are currently a number of programmes underway in refugee camps around the world to eliminate gender inequality. In the Russian Federation, we conduct similar work, and we host annual events aimed at increasing financial and legal literacy for women, allowing them to become more independent,” Natalya Sinyukova noted.

Yuliana Pavlovskaya, Senior Programme Specialist, Office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), gave the “IOM helping vulnerable women migrants” presentation.

“Acting in accordance with the principle of “Leaving no one behind”, IOM helps human trafficking victims, vulnerable migrants and migrants with health issues. In the Russian Federation, from 2022 to 2023, IOM has noticed an increase in the number of requests for support from third parties who require IOM assistance to return home safely. From January to November 2023, IOM received 79 requests for assistance from third-country nationals; 38 migrants were assisted in voluntary return to their homeland, 11 migrants received legal advice, and another 5 were referred to partner organizations.”

Galina Kalinaeva, UN Women expert, told the story of the foundation of the UN Working Group on Gender in Russia and its long-term expert Lyudmila Rzhanitsyna, Chief Research Fellow at the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, who would have turned 90 years old on 6 December 2023. She shared reports and publications prepared by the Gender Group.

The discussion brought together the representatives of UN agencies working in Russia, government institutions, academia, women’s non-governmental associations, as well as renowned human rights defenders, lawyers, women activists, and doctors. The participants emphasized the importance of interaction with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, which are the only available international legal remedies for individuals at the moment.