A report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that closing the gender gap in agriculture could increase yields on farms that are run by women by 20-30 per cent, thereby generating significant gains in terms of food security, economic growth and social welfare.
Numerous studies have also shown that when women earn their own income, they invest most of it into their families - on nutrition, food, healthcare, schooling, and farming activities - which is crucial for agricultural development.
Experts say that gender inequality in rural areas is multifaceted and complex, such that no single organisation can tackle alone.
Ensuring gender equality
Gender gap imposes high costs on society. Lately, three United Nations agencies, namely, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), have jointly launched a global initiative to address the root causes of rural gender inequalities, and thus strengthen efforts to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
The European Union (EU) is allocating five million euros to finance the four-year programme that seeks to trigger transformative changes to empower women and men, boys and girls in households, communities, and institutions in rural areas and beyond.
The joint programme is designed to move beyond just dealing with the symptoms of gender inequalities and discrimination, such as the unequal access to resources and benefits, to addressing the underlying causes rooted in discriminatory gender norms and behaviours and unequal power relations.
“While many conventional approaches for closing the gender gaps in agriculture continue to be perfectly relevant, we have to think more creatively and be more daring in our actions,” the Deputy Director-General for Programmes at the FAO, Mr Daniel Gustafson, said.
He said that by promoting gender-transformative change, it can pave the way for gender equality within rural households and communities, in rural organisations, among service-providers and other value chain actors, and ultimately in policy processes.
The Assistant Executive Director of the WFP, Mr Manoj Juneja, said it was possible, necessary and effective to pursue gender transformative approaches across all contexts - humanitarian, development, urban, rural, conflict or peace - to achieve food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture.
“Where we provide opportunities for women and men to receive assistance equitably, access knowledge and resources, and share in decision-making, we will eliminate hunger in our lifetimes,” he said.
The EU Ambassador, Mr Jan Tombinski, said the EU started its journey to promote gender transformation in the rural sector during a joint EU-UN high level event in Rome in 2016.