Empowering Women in Ag: FAO, UN Look at Gender Equality

GLOBAL – On the eve of International Women’s Day, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said reducing gender inequality is fundamental to eliminating hunger and developing more sustainable food systems.
calendar icon 10 March 2014
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"Family farmers are the dominant force in global food production. And, at the same time, they are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Much of the future of global food security depends on their realizing their untapped potential. Rural women are an important part of this, not just as famers but also in processing and preparing food, and in local markets," Mr Graziano da Silva told international experts and country representatives at an International Women’s Day event in Rome.

Representatives of United Nations and partner organizations were gathered at FAO headquarters for a panel discussion on the theme, Closing the gender gap in agriculture.

Participants discussed the challenges faced by rural women in developing countries, who are highly dependent on subsistence agriculture to feed their families, but who often get caught in a cycle of poverty and hunger due to lack of access to adequate land and water, agricultural inputs, credit, technologies and training.

The FAO Director-General recalled how, in 2003, it took a court case to defend the decision by the Brazilian government to channel the bulk of cash transfers in that country’s Zero Hunger Programme to women recipients, based on the premise that they played a "dominant role in family food management."

"Equality for women is progress for all," Mr Graziano da Silva said.

UN Launches He for She Campaign

Also ahead of International Women’s Day, the United Nations launched the "He for She" campaign urging men to stand up for the rights of their mothers, sisters and daughters, while top UN officials stressed that human rights for girls and women are not a dream but a duty of all.

"Throughout the world, discrimination against women and girls is rampant, and in some cases getting worse. But we also know equality for women is progress for all," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, quoting the theme of this year’s observation.

He also appealed to men and boys of the world: join us, "Where men and women have equal rights, societies prosper."

Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who also participated in the event, played an instrumental role in Beijing, where she uttered the famous quote, "human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all."

She said: "Just as women’s rights are human rights, women’s progress is human progress." She added that despite the achievements, no country in the world has achieved full participation of women in society, and this remains the "great unfinished business of the 21th century."

The next year will also be crucial as it marks the target date for the achievement of the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which contain specific benchmarks for gender equality.

Sarah Mikesell


Sarah Mikesell grew up on a five-generation family farming operation in Ohio, USA, where her family still farms. She feels extraordinarily lucky to get to do what she loves - write about livestock and crop agriculture. You can find her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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