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News Story
5 March 2024
Author: Ebba Ragnartz

Empowering change: exploring strategies for gender equality in the realm of food security

Female farmers working together.

Photo by EqualStock on Unsplash

On the 14th of February, SIANI together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United States (FAO), Sida, and the Government Offices of Sweden conducted a webinar on gender equality in the context of food security. This webinar highlighted the gender disparities that still exist within the agriculture and rural development sector, as well as ways to tackle these issues effectively.  

Dan Ericsson, State Secretary to the Minister for Rural Affairs in Sweden and Chair of the Swedish FAO Committee welcomed the participants and delved into the contextual background of the webinar as well as his involvement with the report and guidelines. He emphasizes the critical nature of the webinar, stressing that if current trends persist, it could worsen issues such as food insecurity and gender inequality. Hence, the importance of conducting this webinar is to spread information and knowledge on the subject. Dan Ericsson mentions: 

“Women’s and girls’ freedom to decide over their own lives is not only a goal in itself, but also a means for a positive development in society in a whole.”

Employment disparities in the agri-food sector 

Following, Lauren Philips, Deputy Director for Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality at FAO and co-author of the FAO report “The Status of Women in Agrifood Systems”, Lauren shed light on some key findings regarding employment in the agri-food sector from the report. The report shows that women and men are employed in this sector, and that serves as an important source of employment for women in low- and middle-income countries. The report further highlights the importance which lies in working under gender-equal conditions, to ensure that women and girls are justly treated and paid. Unfortunately, today, this is not the case as there are still gaps in productivity, wages, and resource access, where females bear the biggest burden.   

Tanja Grén, Permanent Representative of Finland to FAO, World Food Programme (WFP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), shared a “behind the scenes” perspective of bringing together the CFS (Committee on World Food Security) “Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition”. Tanja was one of the co-chairs of the preparation and negotiation of the process of the voluntary gender guidelines, which started in October 2019. The core objective of the Voluntary Guidelines is to support member states and other stakeholders to advance gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights and empowerment in the context of food security and nutrition. The guidelines also provide concrete policy guidance for member states and relevant stakeholders, for the ability to share best practices and lessons learned. 

Continuing, Rebecka Ramstedt, Policy Officer at the Permanent Representation of Sweden to FAO, WFP, and IFAD, further described the dimensions of the Voluntary Guidelines and discussed the extensive and complex process, which took four years from the initial negotiation. The CFS guidelines were endorsed at the CFS51 in October 2023. She highlighted that even though the process was inclusive and extensive ”the guidelines are not perfect, but a step in the right direction (“no step back”). Moving onward will include uptake and the implementation.”  

Geovanny Enriquez, Joint Programme on Gender Transformative Approaches (JP GTA) National Program Coordinator at FAO, presented on the promotion of gender transformative approaches through a case study in Ecuador. Through the identification of local underlying causes of gender inequality and discriminatory gender-based social norms in the agri-food sector, the project was able to define suitable interventions for specific needs at the household-, community-, organizational, and policy levels. 


Visualisation of the JP GTA Theory of Change (ToC) for gender transformative programming for food security and nutrition

Photo by FAO

Elisabeth Simelton, Senior Policy Specialist in Agriculture and Food Security at Sida showcased Sida’s commitment to gender equality and women’s and girls’ empowerment, with women’s economic empowerment as a target area. To achieve this, Sida assesses gender equality as both a thematic area and a perspective, which should be integrated into all its operations. Elisabeth mentioned the important perspective of conflict, which is visible in many instances related to food systems and nutrition. For instance, the feeling of safety in the workplace and at the household level can manifest through whose food gets reduced first, where it has been shown that women largely suffer from health issues and deficiencies, which in turn hampers their ability to contribute to the work. 

The path ahead and what to expect moving forward 

Participants engaged in a panel discussion on the future of the FAO report and CFS voluntary guidelines. One of the questions raised by an audience member was how to ensure the uptake of the Voluntary Guidelines. Dr. Philips underscored the importance of raising awareness and sensitizing people about their potential and capacity building, targeting a wide range of actors. Lauren concluded by stating: 

“There is a bit of backsliding on gender equality and women’s empowerment globally happening, so all of us working together to see how we can support investment and partnership […] to work together to implement these guidelines is very important.” 

The webinar was concluded by Ambassador H.E. Ms. Nosipho Nausca-Jean Jezile, Chair of the Committee of World Food Security, CFS. Her excellency highlighted the importance of exchanging ideas and knowledge, harnessing the synergies to accelerate gender equality in the sphere of food security and nutrition. 

FAO. 2023. The status of women in agrifood systems – Overview. Rome

CFS. 2023.Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment in the Context of Food Security and Nutrition (VGs on GEWGE).

Watch the recording: