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Gender

Empowering rural women and their communities

Women are major contributors to agriculture and rural economies, but face numerous challenges that men do not. They have less access to resources and services, including land, finance, training, inputs and equipment. In addition to their agricultural work, they are overburdened with domestic chores and caring tasks. 

Despite being productive members of their families, organizations and communities, rural women are not always able to raise their voices and contribute to decisions about household and community issues, money or business – including how their own income is spent. 

Throughout their lives, rural women face barriers to full mobility and political participation. It starts early, with girls less likely than boys to receive the schooling and support they need. 

Many written laws still discriminate on the basis of gender, and traditions and patriarchal norms continue to perpetuate gender inequality. As a result, women’s rights, movement, autonomy and access to opportunities and resources are restricted. 

In communities that rely largely on agriculture for their food and income, gender inequality translates into a large gender gap in agricultural productivity, for which countries pay a high price. In Uganda, for example, the cost of the gender gap in the country’s agriculture sector is estimated at US$67 million per year. 

Building a more inclusive economy

Promoting gender equality is a key element of IFAD’s work to reduce rural poverty and improve food security. Women make up about half of all participants of the projects we support. When women are empowered, families, communities and countries benefit. 

IFAD has been at the forefront of gender equality in rural communities, with a focus on transformative and long-lasting results. Our programmes and projects are inclusive and results-oriented. They help rural women grow more food, connect to markets, increase their incomes, and become more literate and financially skilled. 

Women’s empowerment cannot be achieved without change at a household level, involving all members, young and old, women and men. 

IFAD, in cooperation with its partners, is one of the leading agencies pioneering the innovative approach of using Household Methodologies (HHMs). This approach seeks to change the persistent pattern of gender inequality, particularly among farming families and communities.

HHMs shift the focus from the individual to the household level, and from things – such as assets, resources and infrastructure – to people, and who they aspire to be and what they aspire to do.

Participants learn about the links between poverty and gender inequality in the household, while developing a shared vision for the family’s development. 

The results have been transformational. Improving the status of women has led to greater agricultural productivity and the fairer distribution of labour. There have been other game-changing development outcomes, such as improved child nutrition, since women are more likely than men to spend their income on food and education. 

Empowered women are able to participate more fully in their communities and encourage inclusive local policies that further drive rural development.

Spotlight

Spotlight

Women's inclusion sparks large-scale infrastructure projects in remote Pacific island

Date: 6 June 2016 Women on a remote Pacific island are breaking cultural barriers by taking on roles that shape the future of their communities.
Tags: GENDER

Projects

Projects

Pakistan

Southern Federally Administered Tribal Areas Development Project

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Rural Competitiveness Development Programme

Brazil

Maranhão Rural Poverty Alleviation Project

Related stories

Related stories

Women's inclusion sparks large-scale infrastructure projects in remote Pacific island

June 2016 - VIDEO
Date: 6 June 2016 Women on a remote Pacific island are breaking cultural barriers by taking on roles that shape the future of their communities.

Investing in the foundations of Gambian agriculture

September 2021 - BLOG
Roots are the essence of farming: they erect healthy plants and help grant a predictable and generous harvest. The IFAD-supported ROOTS project seeks to promote exactly that strength in The Gambia.

Gender-focused solutions for the post-COVID return to rural areas

September 2021 - BLOG
The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to waves of internal migration as urban workers return to rural areas. IFAD must identify solutions to the challenges this phenomenon has created, and will continue to create, for rural agricultural development. This is especially critical from a gender equity perspective.

Related news

Related news

Empowering women and girls is crucial to ensure sustainable food security in the aftermath of COVID-19, say UN food agency heads ahead of International Women’s Day

March 2021 - NEWS
Hunger and famine will persist and there will be unequal recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic unless more women in rural and urban areas hold leadership positions with increased decision-making power.

Governments need to halt the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on rural women, says IFAD President on International Day of Rural Women

October 2020 - NEWS
Our food supply is at risk if we don’t start prioritizing rural women during this pandemic, said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD in a strong call to governments to increase their investments in rural women.

Lesotho and IFAD join to improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable small-scale farmers

September 2020 - NEWS
160,000 poor rural households in Lesotho will benefit from new financing for a project that will boost food security and nutrition, mitigate the impact of climate change and strengthen livelihoods for greater income.

Related publications

Related publications

The JP RWEE pathway to women’s empowerment

April 2017
Gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls is a pre-condition for the eradication of poverty and essential to achieve progress across all goals and targets set by the Sustainable Development Agenda. The JP RWEE facilitates transformation through rural women’s leadership, making gender equality and women’s empowerment a reality. Support to women's economic empowerment allows for increased influence, education and information for women to decide the use of their income, savings and loans, and the ability to make decisions about their life.

The faces of empowerment - Photo Essay about the beneficiaries of the Joint Programme on Rural Women Economic Empowerment

December 2019
This photo essay describes the different types of changes in the life of women that are participating in the JP RWEE.

Gender transformative approaches for food security, improved nutrition and sustainable agriculture – A compendium of fifteen good practices

December 2020
The Compendium is a product of the Joint Programme on Gender Transformative Approaches for Food Security and Nutrition implemented by FAO, IFAD and WFP and funded by the European Union.

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For questions and to sign up to the IFAD Newsletter on gender equality and social inclusion please email gender@ifad.org