Without gender equity there will be no sustainable development, declares IFAD at launch of the Inter American Decade for the Rights of Rural Women


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Without gender equity there will be no sustainable development, declares IFAD at launch of the Inter American Decade for the Rights of Rural Women

© IFAD/Santiago Billy/Factstory

Panama City, 15 April 2024. “Equal opportunities and rights for rural women are essential for building more prosperous and inclusive societies capable of tackling global challenges such as climate change and food insecurity. Without gender equity, there will be no sustainable development,” declared the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

This statement was issued in Panama City during the official launch of the Inter-American Decade for the Rights of All Women, Adolescents and Girls in Rural Settings of the Americas 2024-2034, declared in June 2023 by the Organization of American States (OEA). “The Inter-American Decade is a great opportunity to empower rural women and redouble efforts to eliminate the multiple gender gaps in rural settings,” noted Maija Peltola, IFAD Country Director for Mexico and Guyana.

“This historical milestone reflects a critical commitment to promoting the rights of rural girls, adolescents and women in the Americas and eradicating discrimination. We are confident that this decision will mark the beginning of a steadfast commitment by governments to providing technical and financial resources to support policies and programmes that promote the dignity and well‑being of all rural women in the region and the world,” added Luz Haro Guanga, Executive Secretary of the Network of Rural Women of Latin America and the Caribbean (RedLAC), an organization that for nearly two decades has spearheaded efforts to procure this international declaration.

Despite the essential role of rural women in food security, their participation in land ownership is lower that than of men and they have less access to productive resources, training and financial and technology services. Moreover, they have a heavier household workload, less income and inequitable access to services such as education and health – factors that limit their full participation in the economic, social and political activities of their communities.

RedLAC’s initial objectives for the Inter-American Decade are to develop the human talent of rural women through vocational training schools; implement public policies that guarantee the right to land ownership and access to soft loans for productive ventures; strengthen rural women’s organizations; and create more opportunities for rural women to participate and engage in knowledge sharing.

Rural women, an IFAD priority

IFAD works with small-scale farmers to improve production processes, strengthen rural organizations and facilitate their integration into value chains. To accomplish this, it promotes greater participation by women in the projects it finances and the leadership bodies of rural organizations, constantly monitoring gender indicators.

Rossana Polastri, Regional Director of IFAD’s Latin America and the Caribbean Division and Ambassador of the Inter-American Decade, noted in this regard that “the full participation of both women and men boosts agricultural productivity and household incomes and increases the population’s food security. Equality of opportunities is a basic right and the best way to achieve sustainable community development.”

Projects financed by the Fund take different action to address the gender issue. One example is use of the Closing the Gap methodology created by IFAD, which makes it possible to identify inequalities in communities and design and implement action plans to eliminate them, at all times with the participation of both women and men. Since its 2021 update, more than 50 rural organizations in El Salvador, Ecuador and Bolivia have used this methodology, furthering rural women’s empowerment.

The methodology has also employed techniques such as street theatre to interact with communities and raise their awareness about food security and gender equity and to form community saving groups with the goal of promoting women’s economic empowerment. It has also influenced public policies to facilitate greater access by women to social protection systems, among other actions.

It should be noted that since 2013, IFAD has recognized projects around the world that promote gender equity. This year, for example, the Integral Strengthening Programme for the Camelid Value Chain in the Bolivian High Plateau (Pro‑Camélidos) received this recognition in the region. Through innovative workshops held by the project, communities in the high plateau challenged the beliefs, norms and behaviours that foster discrimination against women, thus promoting real change.

Rural women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change and have a higher incidence of food insecurity than men. Nonetheless, their work in food production and natural resource management makes them essential agents of change. IFAD is therefore committed to putting rural women at the centre of the discussion and development of public policies to address the current context, with a view to promoting gender equity and achieving sustainable development.

Contacts for the media:

IFAD Press Release No PR-27-2024

IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency. Based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub – IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided more than US$24 billion in grants and low-interest loans to fund projects in developing countries.

A wide range of photographs of IFAD’s work in rural communities are available for download from its Image Bank.