Statement delivered by Adolfo Brizzi Director, Policy and Technical Advisory Division, IFAD on behalf of Gilbert F. Houngbo IFAD President at the Gender Network meeting in IFAD HQ

Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, it’s a pleasure to meet with you today.

Gender equality and women’s empowerment is increasingly being recognized as a global priority. And SDG5 is increasingly being seen as a catalytic element of the ambitious 2030 Agenda. In particular, if we do not empower women, it is clear that we will not eradicate hunger or poverty.

In order to achieve gender equality, it is vital to ensure equal access for women to productive assets and services, and to employment and market opportunities.

As you know, IFAD has a long history of supporting gender equality and the empowerment of women – particularly rural women.

In 1992, IFAD organized the Summit on the Economic Advancement of Rural Women in Geneva, which provided valuable input to the historic Beijing Conference on Women held in 1995.

Learning from the experience that activities aimed only at women were not effective, we formalized the focus on gender mainstreaming with the 2003-06 Plan of Action for Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in IFAD's Operations.

And in 2012 our Executive Board approved the IFAD Policy on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, which continues to guide our work today and centre it on the three pillars of: economic empowerment, reducing women’s burden of work, and increasing their voice and influence.

IFAD's Strategic Framework 2016 – 2025 identifies gender equality as one of the Fund’s five principles of engagement.

  • Women make up a full 50 per cent of the rural people reached by the projects we support. And in several areas, women outnumber men. This is particularly true of rural finance, where women make up 61 per cent of savers and 65 per cent of borrowers, enabling them to build their businesses and strengthen their resilience to risk.

During IFAD’s 10th and 11th replenishment periods – which run from 2016 to 2021 – we  are stepping up our approach to women’s empowerment.

Our aim now – together with our partners – is to achieve transformative change for women by addressing the root causes of gender inequality. As you know, these causes include prevailing social norms, entrenched attitudes and behaviours, and discrimination and social systems.

The household methodologies – which IFAD piloted together with partners – is one of the most effective and widely applied gender transformative approaches.

Over 40 projects across Africa are using the participatory methodologies to promote equitable relations within the household, a fairer division of labour and shared decision-making.

In Uganda, for example, significant behavioural changes are taking place in households applying the methodologies. Men are sharing domestic chores and childcare. Women have gained in autonomy and can make independent purchases, including land and mobile phones. They are able to buy and sell livestock and to travel to market by vehicle to sell their produce.

Households have greater food security and more girls and boys are attending school.

As you know, IFAD has a close partnership with the other Rome-based agencies on gender. The Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women is working in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda. This coalition of FAO, IFAD, UNWOMEN and WFP is capitalizing on each agency’s mandate and institutional strengths to generate sustainable and wide-scale improvements in the living conditions and rights of rural women and girls.

We also aim to practice what we preach. Within IFAD, we have accepted the targets set by the UN system for parity at P4 level and above, including the most senior levels of representation in Field Offices, Committees, Advisory Bodies and Funds linked to the entity, irrespective of budgetary source.

The Mid-term Review of IFAD's Policy on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment noted that we would need to step up our efforts in order to meet the demands of the ambitious new strategic framework – and this is what we intend to do.

IFAD has been seen as a leader among United Nations entities in terms of progress in meeting the indicators of the UN System-Wide Approach (or SWAP) on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

In order to maintain and improve our record, we are fully committed to making additional efforts on gender architecture and parity, resource allocation, and staff capacity assessment and development.

I wish you fruitful deliberations later today. Thank you.