Progress towards gender equality is key to meeting global goals of eradicating poverty and eliminating hunger and malnutrition. Women make important contributions to agriculture and rural livelihoods and play a vital role in the care and reproduction of households and communities. However, persistent gender inequalities, such as unequal access to productive resources – including land, services and inputs, finance, training – and information to markets and institutions hamper the realization of women’s human and productive potential. These inequalities must be addressed to realize the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the mandate of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to eliminate hunger and malnutrition and eradicate poverty through sustainable agriculture and management of natural resources.
In recent years, the United Nations (UN) and FAO have deepened their institutional commitment to gender equality. In 2006 the UN Chief Executive Board for Coordination endorsed the UN System-Wide Action Plan to speed inclusion of gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the UN system. FAO formulated the FAO Gender Equality Policy (GEP) in 2012, establishing institutional targets and external objectives for gender equality in rural development, agriculture and resource management (FAO, 2013a). To support the implementation of the FAO GEP and ensure attention to gender equality and women’s empowerment in all its areas of work, FAO also strengthened its gender architecture consisting of a team of experts at headquarters, regional gender advisors and Gender Focal Points (GFP) in country offices.Gender is a cross-cutting theme in the FAO Strategic Framework and its five Strategic Objectives. This confirms the organization’s commitment to “pursue the integration of gender issues in all aspects of its work, ensuring that attention to gender equality becomes a regular feature of work on standard setting and of regional, subregional and country level programmes and projects” (FAO, 2013b, 20).
In the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, gender equality is mainstreamed as well as being included as a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) (SDG5), which aims at gender equality, including in representation and decision-making and in access to economic resources, inheritance, and natural resources. FAO further recognizes rural women as agents of change whose engagement is necessary to meet the other SDGs (FAO, 2015). This Regional Gender Strategy and Action Plan 2017–2019 for the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) builds on and supports these efforts.