UN agencies step up on gender equality to end hunger and poverty
Empowerment of rural women is fundamental for achieving 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals
Leaders from the three United Nations’ Rome-based agencies marked International Women's Day by reinforcing their commitments to step up efforts to invest in the capacities of rural women as key agents of change in building a world without hunger.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) reminded the world that women and girls play a crucial role in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular, the goal of eradicating hunger and extreme poverty.
"Women play a critical role in agriculture and food systems - not just as farmers, but also as food producers, traders and managers," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva on the occasion of the Day. "However, women still face major constraints in rural labour markets and in agricultural value chains. They are more likely to be in poorly paid jobs, without legal or social protection. This limits women's capacity to advance their skills, earn incomes and access employment opportunities."
Graziano da Silva noted that the future of global food security depends on unleashing women's potential. "Achieving gender equality and empowering women are crucial ingredients in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition which is strongly recognised by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," he said.
IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze said, "We need to face the fact that we will never overcome poverty and hunger without empowering rural women."
He added, "Transforming gender relations within the family is also crucial to empowering women and enabling them to make decisions about their lives."
WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin said, "Empowering women economically is one of the key steps to realising gender equality and achieving Zero Hunger."
"Ensuring women have adequate access to land, tools, fertilisers and credit improves their lives and the lives of their families; potentially freeing millions from hunger. Enabling women to seize these opportunities will transform lives and help bring the Sustainable Development Goals within reach," she said.
Bridging the gender gap
In developing countries, women make up 45 percent of the agricultural labour force, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to up to 60 percent in parts of Africa and Asia. However, they do significantly more unpaid work than men - especially in providing care to families and communities - limiting their capacity to earn incomes and advance their skills.
Gender-biased social norms, laws and practices can also limit women's access to essential assets including natural resources and education as well as social assets such as participation in rural organisations and other decisionmaking bodies. As a result, their ability to reach their full potential and influence decision-making in economic, social and political spheres, for example, is seriously undermined.
Measures that are crucial to ensuring rural women's economic empowerment in the changing world of work include improving their access to economic opportunities, productive resources, jobs, health services, social protection and education. Evidence shows that malnutrition rates fall significantly when women have access to education and employment opportunities.