Feed the Future
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A closer look at gender-based violence, engaging men and boys, and gender analysis

Written by Wenchi Yu, Senior Advisor of the Secretary's Office of Global Women's Issues in the U.S. Department of State.

On International Women’s Day (IWD) on March 8, my first Twitter Chat focused on gender-based violence (GBV) in agriculture and food security, engaging men and boys to find solutions, and incorporating gender analysis for effective programs.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) The State of Food and Agriculture report released in 2011 paid special attention to the role of women in agriculture. For the first time, we learned that closing the gender gap in agriculture could increase production on women’s farms by 20-30 percent in developing countries, hence increasing overall agricultural production by 2.5-4 percent, and feed 100-150 million hungry people. The powerful business case for promoting women’s empowerment in agriculture garnered global attention. 

During the 56th UN Commission on the Status of Women meetings in 2012, discussions on addressing GBV for women in rural communities and women farmers included the following topics:

  • GBV causes women to have lower productivity and therefore lower agricultural production;
  • GBV is one of the symptoms of gender inequality and is a key barrier to women’s contribution to economic growth;
  • economic inequalities is a cause of GBV; and
  • cultures and traditions that tolerate GBV tend to have fewer empowered women who can contribute to the economy and society.

The correlation and causation between GBV and agriculture and food security have been elaborated through those discussions.

One of the solutions to GBV and women’s empowerment in agriculture is engaging men and boys. In the United States Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Strategy Globally, men and boys are identified as allies in GBV interventions.

“Numerous studies speak to the importance of addressing men and boys’ perceptions and behaviors on gender-based violence in their roles as perpetrators, gatekeepers, supportive partners, and caregivers. Engaging men and boys to challenge harmful social norms that perpetuate the cycle of violence is critical to achieve sustained transformational change.”

Furthermore, educating men and boys to recognize the social and economic benefits of women’s empowerment could create a social norm that values women and girls, leading to increased investments in women and girls.

While engaging men and boys is an important factor to the success of empowering women and girls, gender analysis that tracks women’s engagement in agriculture and examines women’s empowerment relative to men within their households provides a deeper understanding of gender dynamics and enhances program design and effectiveness. The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index, for example, is a useful tool.

In the recent report to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food titled, "Women’s rights and the right to food," gender analysis and incorporation in programs is called for in all public policies that address food security. The report recommends that women’s views should be systematically sought in the design, implementation and evaluation of programs, and that incentive schemes should be devised to set gender equality targets and to reward public officials who meet them.


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