Investing in Women: A Catalyst for Agrifood System Transformation

It is imperative to recognize the significant yet often overlooked contributions of women in our agrifood systems across the Asia-Pacific region. Despite their pivotal roles in fields, factories, and small to medium-sized enterprises, women continue to encounter numerous hurdles ranging from limited access to resources to discriminatory practices ingrained in the food value chain.

The theme for this year’s IWD, “Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress,” resonates deeply in our region, underscoring the urgent need for substantial financial investments to achieve gender equality within agrifood systems. Such investments are not just about recognizing women’s contributions but ensuring sustainable outcomes that empower them economically and socially.

Recent discussions at the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific highlighted the necessity for increased financial commitments to drive the ongoing agrifood systems transformation in the region. Recognizing the potential, 40 FAO Member Nations emphasized the crucial role of financial investments in fostering gender equality within these systems.

Investing in women’s economic empowerment isn’t merely a moral imperative; it’s also economically prudent. FAO data from 2023 indicates that bridging the gender gap in farm productivity and wage disparities within agrifood system employment could lead to a significant rise in the gross domestic product, potentially reducing global food insecurity by millions.

So, how do we bridge this investment gap effectively? It requires a multifaceted approach encompassing both traditional and innovative financial and policy instruments. Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB) stands as a critical strategy, but it’s essential to explore a wide array of approaches tailored to the diverse needs of women across the region.

Creating platforms for women’s voices to be heard, learning from their successes, and accelerating investments are pivotal steps toward achieving the 2030 agenda for gender equality. FAO’s establishment of an Office for Youth and Women exemplifies a commitment to fostering a supportive environment within the organization while advocating for gender parity and empowerment.

Beyond financial investments, addressing the unequal burden of unpaid care work is equally crucial. Women in the Asia-Pacific region devote significantly more time to unpaid care work than men, underscoring the need for equitable distribution and accessible care systems to alleviate this disparity.

Moreover, investing in women’s technical and leadership skills is paramount for their entrepreneurship and income generation. FAO’s Regional Gender Strategy and Action Plan emphasizes the mobilization of both men and women to transform agrifood systems, fostering inclusive dialogue and reflection to reshape power dynamics.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us not only acknowledge the challenges but recommit ourselves to actionable steps. By investing in women, we accelerate progress not just within agrifood systems but toward a more equitable and sustainable future for all. Together, let’s champion change and ensure that no woman is left behind in the journey towards empowerment and equality.

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