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
Protecting women’s rights in the face of domestic violence in India and Burundi
IFAD and Bangladesh invest US$92.4 million to improve livelihoods for poorest rural households in flood-prone areas
Agricultural investment can have big impact on the lives of women and girls in developing countries, says IFAD President
UN agencies in Rome step up on gender equality to end hunger and poverty
Research Series Issue 19 - Measuring Women's Empowerment in Agriculture: A Streamlined Approach
The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) can be a useful tool to measure the empowerment, agency and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector. However, computing the WEAI in its current form involves large data requirements, resulting in lengthy surveys with several questions on various dimensions and indicators within each dimension. This paper proposes a reduced version of the WEAI, or the R-WEAI, and examines two possible approaches to reduce the data requirements while ensuring comparability to the full WEAI.
Gender mainstreaming in IFAD10
IFAD has a well-established history of supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment. This commitment spans 25 years, from the 1992 paper, Strategies for the Economic Advancement of Poor Rural Women, to the 2003-2006 Plan of Action for Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in IFAD’s Operations, the 2010 Corporate-level Evaluation of IFAD’s Performance with regard to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment by the Independent Office of Evaluation, and finally the 2012 gender policy.
In the new IFAD Strategic Framework 2016-2025, gender equality is identified as one of the five principles of engagement at the core of IFAD’s identity and values. IFAD complies with the United Nations commitments on gender mainstreaming, including the United Nations System-wide Action Plan (UN-SWAP) on gender equality and the empowerment of women.