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Statement by Cornelia Richter, Vice-President of IFAD, at OECD Global Forum on Development

Où: OECD Conference Centre, Paris

04 avril 2018

Your Royal Highness,


Distinguished colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is my honour to be with you today to discuss the crucial topic of empowering women and youth.

This year we are witnessing the power of women and of young people to bring about change.

The women who are speaking out against sexual coercion and inequality, and the young people who have galvanized a nation and the world against gun violence are an inspiration to all of us.

But missing from the marches and the rallies are the 1.7 billion women and girls who live in rural areas of developing countries, and the young people under the age of 25 who call these rural areas home.

They live in remote communities, down dirt roads, far from their capitals and out of sight of mainstream media.

And often they face greater inequalities and greater injustices than their urban counterparts. Rural women too often lack authority in their homes; control over their finances; a voice in their communities; and in too many cases, even autonomy over their own bodies. Rural youth are two to three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. More than 200 million are among the working poor. And roughly 600 million live in fragile situations.

These rural women, girls, boys and young people must not get left behind.

My agency, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, has made the empowerment of women and youth a priority.

For 40 years, IFAD has pursued its mandate is to help end rural poverty and hunger. We have seen that investing in women enhances the impact of our projects. Women now make up more than half of all project participants. Gender is mainstreamed in all our IFAD11 project, along with climate and environment, nutrition, and youth employment.  These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

We have come to realize that the rights of rural women to fully participate in all spheres of society – whether economic, social or political – must be regarded as an end in itself.

This means addressing the root causes of gender inequalities, including gender-biased norms and attitudes and discriminatory practices. It requires working at all levels – from the household to the community, to the highest levels of government – to ensure women’s participation in decision-making.

And we have learned from experience that empowering women means including men in the process. In an IFAD-supported project in Ethiopia, for example, we found that interventions failed where social and gender dynamics were not addressed. But where women and men worked together in farmers organizations and decision-making was no longer dominated by men, communities achieved real improvements in yields, income, or nutrition. 

One innovative technique for addressing such issues is what we call  “household methodologies”.  With our partners in Uganda, we pioneered this participatory approach starting in 2009. By July 2017, the methodologies were planned or being implemented in 40 projects in 28 countries.

The approach involves having women and men work together to develop a shared vision for family goals. In Uganda, household methodologies have been used particularly to reach out to the poorest families and ensure that they are included in development activities. Over 20,000 households saw a range of benefits. Women and men began taking literacy classes, using health services and joining savings groups. Joint land titling between women and men became common. Women spoke up at home and in the community and rates of domestic violence fell dramatically.

The need to look at social norms and the community as a whole is part of IFAD’s holistic approach across the regions where it works. In Nepal, for example, patriarchal norms continue to keep women at home and limit their mobility and economic opportunities. The Rural Women’s Leadership Programme worked to build the capacity of rural women to affect policies and take advantage of development opportunities. However, engaging men in building acceptance of women’s leadership was also key. So women leaders identified potential male advocates and they were included in training activities.

Young rural people are also disadvantaged. Inequality and lack of opportunity means that many rural communities lose their most precious resource—their young people, who migrate to cities or abroad, searching for opportunities. This is because agriculture is not attractive, not remunerative, is hard-working and lacks of social recognition. Yet research indicates that young people who can get access to good education and decent employment  can choose to stay in rural areas. "Making migration a choice and not a necessity" is indeed the motto of some of our operations.

Farming and related businesses can offer decent work and hope to tens of millions of young people entering the job market today.

This is why IFAD is sharpening its focus on youth. In our next funding period, 2019-2021, we are targeting a dramatic increase in the number of young people trained in income-generating activities or business management -- from 120,000 to 3.2 million.

We know that young rural people need access to resources, finance and education to achieve their  potential. They need modern technology to help make agricultural work less back-breaking in developing countries. And they need training so that they can develop modern agri-businesses that offer worthwhile careers.

In Mali, for example, the l'Entreprenariat des jeunes Ruraux (FIER) project is focused exclusively on youth to create a new generation of entrepreneurs. Young people, both boys and girls, are included at every step, from project design to participating in supervision missions.

To receive funding and training, young people must first reflect on what they want to do and design their own project. Altogether young people are able to access about 20,000 pre-apprenticeships and trainings, including literacy courses and vocational education.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At a time when inequality and conflict is on the rise – and when multilateralism and institutions in general are under attack -- we must remember that change can also be a positive force. An empowering, people-centred development model can ensure that no one is left behind. It can turn change into transformation, by providing the resources that people need to remake their lives, communities and nations. And development institutions can advocate for good governance and the right policies, and amplify the voices of the most disadvantaged.

Because development is not a gift, it is not charity. It is a responsibility, to enable people to empower themselves.

Thank you.