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UN urges to invest in women in agri-food systems

IFAD-FAO-WFP appeal on the occasion of March 8th. Closing the gender gap would increase GDP

According to the FAO Report on the Status of Women in Agri-Food Systems, closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity and wages within agri-food systems could increase global domestic product by 1%, or almost $1 trillion, and reduce levels of global food insecurity, leading to 45 million more people enjoying food security. “Investing in women means investing in sustainable development. The return on investment is not just about overcoming poverty and inequality, but about building stronger institutions, economies and entire communities,” said Gerardine Mukeshimana , vice-president of the International Fund for agricultural development (IFAD).

“Given the crucial role of women in rural economies and agri-food systems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, addressing the gender gap in financing is key to more inclusive and equitable rural development. Closing this gap not only empowers women, but can also bring significant benefits to their families and communities,” said Maria Helena Semedo , Deputy Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). ).

“When we invest in women and girls, we feed entire communities,” said Valerie Guarnieri , World Food Program (WFP) Deputy Executive Director, Program Operations. “We can win the battle against hunger and malnutrition by empowering and supporting women to take the lead.”

Today, according to the 2022 Gender Snapshot of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), only 4% of total bilateral aid is dedicated to programs that have gender equality as their main objective. Furthermore, the existing funding gap to achieve gender equality in key areas, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger and poverty and support women's equal participation in societies by 2030, is approximately 360 billion dollars per year in 48 developing countries (FAO 2023).

Agri-food systems represent an important source of income for women in many countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, 66% of female employment is in agri-food systems, while in South Asia the percentage is as high as 71%. Women are essential to global, regional and national food security (FAO 2023).
However, women's unequal status, due to discriminatory social norms in society and agri-food systems, makes them vulnerable to hunger and poverty. As of 2022, 388 million women and girls lived in extreme poverty, and 27.8% of women suffered from moderate or severe food insecurity.

This general picture of gender inequality is strongly evident in rural areas. Limited access to agricultural goods and inputs creates a gender gap in land productivity, with a 24% difference between the productivity of female- and male-owned farms of the same size. Women earn, on average, 18.4% less in agricultural wage work: when men earn a dollar, women earn about 82 cents. Furthermore, heat waves and floods affect rural women and men differently and widen the income gap, as highlighted in the Unjust Climate report (FAO 2024).

In close collaboration with IFAD and WFP, FAO plans to launch a major global initiative to promote gender equality and women's empowerment at the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which will take place from 11 to 22 March 2024, building on the momentum generated by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) “Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls in Food Security and Nutrition” approved in 2023 and the 2023 FAO report on the “State of women in agri-food systems”.

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EFA News - European Food Agency