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Rural women and girls are key agents of change to free the world from hunger and extreme poverty, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said on Wednesday at a special side-event "Leaving no one behind: Achieving gender equality for food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture" on the sidelines of the FAO's Conference.
"Their role goes beyond agricultural production and extends throughout the food system but, as we all know, rural women continue to face multiple constraints," he said, noting that they have less access to productive resources and employment opportunities.
He also stressed that women are more affected by the consequences of conflicts and crises.
"During a drought situation, for example, a greater workload is placed on women. In Africa and Latin America, women can spend many hours a day searching for water in times of drought and then need to walk many kilometers carrying a bucket of water on their head," he said.
Graziano da Silva also highlighted the importance of partnerships in supporting rural women.
As an example, he cited a joint effort of FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), World Food Programme (WFP), and UN Women - the UN Agency specialised in gender. "Together, we are supporting national governments to implement a global programme called "Accelerating progress towards the economic empowerment of rural women". This programme aims at improving rural women's livelihoods in seven countries, including Guatemala, Nepal and Ethiopia," he said.
"As a result, more women in these countries have been able to open bank accounts in their own names. More women are accessing credit. And more women are running their own individual businesses," the FAO chief added.
Graziano da Sillva said that FAO provides technical support to empower rural women in more than 15 countries, including Rwanda, Belize, Bolivia, Afghanistan and Tunisia.