Empowering Rural Women: Joint United Nations Program’s New Phase to Target Countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific

Photo: WFP/Evelyn Fey/2022
Published March 16, 2022

ROME: Four United Nations agencies today announced the forthcoming launch of a new phase of a joint program that aims to secure rural women’s livelihoods, rights and resilience to advance sustainable development.

The “Joint Programme: Accelerating Progress Towards Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment” (JP RWEE) is a partnership between the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, UN Women, and the three Rome-based agencies: the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The program which began in 2014 seeks to expand its funding base and further scale up to additional countries.

This new five-year phase of the programme will  initially focus on Nepal, Niger, the Pacific Islands, Tanzania and Tunisia, thanks to the generous support of Norway and Sweden who have committed approximately $25 million towards the program.

“This partnership builds on previous success and demonstrates the impact of combining expertise to achieve significant results for rural women. These results include increased agricultural productivity, economic autonomy and leadership roles. We are grateful to Norway and Sweden for the opportunity to scale up the program in both existing and new countries, keeping the rights and needs of rural women firmly at the center,” said Sima Bahous, UN Women executive director.

Rural women face structural barriers including discriminatory policies, legislation and social norms which hinder their access to services, resources and opportunities. They carry the disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work and are often excluded from participation and leadership in rural public life.

“This program with its holistic approach is a great vehicle to improve rural women’s livelihoods. Lessons learned from the first phase show that it is crucial to secure funding from the onset of the program and we encourage other donors to join us in this important effort to empower rural women,” said  Astrid T. Tveteraas, head of section for food, Department for Climate and Environment, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.

“This program has shown that rural women are key agents for achieving the transformational economic, environmental and social changes required for sustainable development. Sweden is pleased to support the second phase in new countries. Equally, Sweden is eager to support approaches and lessons from the program that can push the overall global development of women’s economic empowerment further,” said Lotta Sylwander, lead policy specialist gender, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

The program builds on the comparative advantages and strengths of FAO, IFAD, UN Women and the U.N. World Food Programme to address the multi-faceted dimensions of rural women’s economic empowerment, which includes access to opportunities, resources and services including land, credit and technology. The program works with national governments to advance policy change, with local governments to ensure policy implementation, and with local communities and households to tackle unequal power dynamics and discriminatory social norms in order to achieve deep rooted and lasting change.

The first phase of the program was implemented in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda from 2014 to 2021 and reached approximately 80,000 rural women. The participants achieved, on average, an 82% increase in agricultural production, generated over $3,600,000 from on-farm and off-farm sales and almost $2 million through savings and loan schemes. Program results also showed greater economic autonomy for rural women, more gender equitable household relations and increased numbers of women in leadership positions.

The new phase of the Programme will be formally launched at a side event during the 66th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) on March 23rd, 2022.

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