Gender Equality and Rural Women’s Empowerment Network
Near East and North Africa Region

Gender Equality and Rural Women’s Empowerment

For FAO, gender equality is equal participation of women and men in decision-making, equal ability to exercise their human rights, equal access to and control of resources and the benefits of development, and equal opportunities in employment and in all other aspects of their livelihoods. Gender equality is when women and men enjoy equal rights, opportunities and entitlements in civil and political life

Gender equality makes good economic and social sense. The FAO State of Food and Agriculture 2010-11 report, shows that if female farmers had the same access as male farmers to agricultural inputs and services, they could substantially increase the yields on their farms. A World Bank report concluded that reducing gender inequality leads to falling infant and child mortality, improved nutrition, higher economic productivity and faster growth. For the global community, gender equality is also a commitment, embedded in international human rights agreements and in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Gender equity means fairness and impartiality in the treatment of women and men in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities

FAO has placed gender equity in access to resources, goods, services and decision-making among its key strategic objectives in agriculture and rural development for the next 10 years. By creating social relations in which neither of the sexes suffers discrimination, gender equity aims at improving gender relations and gender roles, and achieving gender equality.

The essence of equity is not identical treatment - treatment may be equal or different, but should always be considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations and opportunities. Since male predominance in the family, public policy and institutions - not only in rural areas, but worldwide - has long obscured women's interests and concerns, a key strategy for gender equity lies in women's empowerment. Development must encompass rural women's long-term needs and aspirations, their decision-making power, and their access to and control of critical resources such as land and their own labour.

Gender mainstreaming is the globally recognized strategy for achieving gender equality

Gender mainstreaming is defined by the United Nations as the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action in all areas and at all levels. That means making both the concerns and experiences of women and men an integral dimension of all agriculture and rural development efforts.

As part of its new strategic framework, FAO has made gender mainstreaming central to its development policies and programmes. The Organization's work now extends beyond "women's issues", into areas once considered "gender-neutral", such as agricultural science and economic policy making. Within the Organization, gender mainstreaming entails sensitizing staff to gender issues in technical and administrative work, creating accountability mechanisms, and ensuring the allocation of resources equal to the challenge.

To help steer its gender mainstreaming efforts, FAO’s Director General endorsed the ‘FAO Policy on Gender Equality: Attaining Food Security Goals in Agriculture and Rural Development’ in 2012. The policy recognizes that gender equality is central to the Organization’s mandate to achieve food security for all by raising the levels of nutrition, improving agricultural productivity and natural resource management and improving the lives of rural people. The policy will guide the Organization’s efforts in ensuring that the issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment are fully integrated in all areas of work – food and nutrition security, agriculture and consumer protection, economic and social development, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry, natural resource management and environment and technical cooperation, knowledge exchange, research and extension.