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Fifty-ninth session of the Commission on the Status of Women: IFAD statement

Où: New York

08 mars 2015

Madam Chairperson,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to address the Commission on the Status of Women on behalf of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) at this important juncture, when we are looking back at the Fourth World  Conference on Women,  the progress achieved over the last 20 years, and the challenges that are still before us. 

Since Beijing, rural women have seen dramatic changes in their livelihoods.  Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Middle East, and in northern Africa are now classified as middle-income countries and life has improved.  But not all have benefitted to the same degree. What's more, inequalities have been growing.  A large percentage of people in rural areas have been left behind – poor farmers, pastoralists, fishers, foresters, indigenous peoples, and people with disabilities.  Everywhere, rural women are more vulnerable and face double discrimination. At the same time, the number of fragile states is growing, in particular in Africa, and food security is put at great risk in times of conflict or natural disaster.  Major global phenomena such as climate change, armed conflict and terrorism are also having a direct impact on rural women's lives.  

Madam Chairperson,

While "rural women" do not figure as one of the 12 critical areas of concern in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, many of their concerns have been mainstreamed throughout the document.  In our view, the status of rural women, including indigenous women and their important role in agriculture and food security, has not been addressed adequately over the last 20 years. For this reason, the Rome-based agencies –  (FAO, IFAD and WFP) – have chosen "Empower rural women to achieve food and nutrition security" as a key message for Beijing+20 and have joint efforts to put this topic on the policy agenda.  

For rural women to achieve gender equality, there are a number of important issues that need to be addressed: 

-     The vital role that women play in the rural economy and rural employment needs to be further recognized to improve their social and economic status.

-     Poor rural infrastructure and services impede women's involvement in social, political and economic activities.

-     Inequitable decision-making at all levels restricts women's opportunities and constrains their livelihood options.

-     Persistent structural constraints – such as lack of recognition of women's land and property rights - prevent rural women and girls from fully enjoying their human rights.

-     Gender-based violence and discriminatory norms and practices inflict damage on rural women and girls and limit their options in life.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) remains at the core of our efforts to promote gender equality. We support the work of the CEDAW Committee and its endeavor to prepare a General Recommendation on rural women. We recognize that the gap between de jure and de facto equality is large in rural areas, and that changing attitudes and customs remains a challenge, for both women and men.

Madam Chairperson,

IFAD has made great strides made in empowering rural women and promoting community development by involving men and women equally. Women's representation among people receiving services from IFAD-supported projects has continued to increase – from 28 million in 2011 to around 49 million in 2013 –  and women now account for almost half of all beneficiaries. IFAD has recently demonstrated its commitment to gender equality by setting itself more challenging targets in its new Results Management Framework for 2016-2018.

While we are discussing Beijing +20, our eyes are also on the framework for a  new global development agenda which will be adopted later this year.  For IFAD,  the focus is on rural transformation as a key element of sustainable development.  It is reached when the livelihoods of smallholder family farmers and poor rural men and women improve, and when communities are lifted out of poverty –in a sustainable manner. We believe this can be achieved by fostering economic empowerment, by giving women a voice in decision-making, and by reducing women's workloads.  To have a transformative impact and go beyond addressing the symptoms of gender equality, our interventions need to be accompanied by actions that tackle the underlying social norms, behaviours and social systems in order to produce far-reaching and sustainable changes.

Madam Chairperson,

Over the last years, the UN System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN-SWAP, has helped IFAD to improve internal procedures by tracking our progress towards a set of 15 performance indicators, to set benchmarks for improvement and to check our overall performance with those of the UN system.  The UN-SWAP represents an excellent tool across the UN system for promoting gender equality and empowering women. We are grateful to the leadership and support that UN Women has given us.

In closing, IFAD would like to reiterate its commitment to work with all partners and contribute to the future long-term programme of the Commission on the Status of Women.  It is our hope that rural women, indigenous women, and food and nutrition security will receive greater attention.

Thank you. 

New York, 9 - 20 March 2015