Solution Cluster 4.1.3

Gender Transformative Approaches for Inclusive and Sustainable Food Systems

This Solution Cluster: Gender Transformative Approaches for Inclusive and Sustainable Food Systems, drives the systematic integration of gender-transformative approaches (GTAs) in food systems programmes and policies. GTAs challenge all actors in food systems to transform power dynamics, norms, and structures that perpetuate and reinforce inequality. When applied to food systems, there is great potential for positive change at scale across the whole food system, making it just, equitable, and transformative.

About this Solution Cluster

The problem this cluster of solutions addresses is pervasive gender inequality in food systems. Despite the roles and responsibilities that women assume and are ascribed, often unpaid, in ensuring food security and nutrition at all levels, they face systemic disadvantage in accessing and controlling productive resources and services, and in influencing systems and policies. There is overwhelming evidence that gender-based discrimination, and the ensuing violation of women’s human rights, is a major cause of poverty and food and nutrition insecurity.[1]FAO, 2019, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Harmful social and gender norms and practices shape the gendered distribution of paid and unpaid work; limit women’s access to and control of assets, productive resources, and markets; and undermine women’s leadership potential.[2]CFS, 2017, Forum on Women’s Empowerment in the context of Food Security and Nutrition They also facilitate exploitation and violence. The denial of rights, through formal and informal institutions and laws, is also prevalent across food systems and beyond. There is widespread and systematic institutional and legislative discrimination and bias against women in access to resources, services, and freedoms – such as – land, finance, education, extension, employment, mobility, inputs, social protection, leadership, and more. This dual problem of harmful gender norms and the denial of women’s rights, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19, affects women across the globe. Further, women in food systems are not a homogenous group and can face multiple and compounding forms of discrimination, requiring an intersectional analysis and policy response. This cluster of solutions is imperative not only because of the challenges women face, but also because of the agency and key roles that they play in food systems from both production and consumption perspectives. Women have extensive knowledge and, with changes in relations and structures, their capacities can contribute to the attainment of all SDGs. There are extensive examples of societies where matriarchal norms have direct and positive influence on food systems and nutrition and which contemporary policy can draw from. Women also have rights and respecting these specific rights is an imperative for equality in food systems.

This cluster will work because the proposed solutions have already proven successful. There is extensive and compelling evidence that GTAs contribute to improved food security, nutrition, equity, and other outcomes, including the reduction of violence. Impacts such as increases in incomes and access to assets and services; improvements in ecosystem and human health, wellbeing, and education; and accelerated poverty alleviation and GDP growth are other social, environmental, and economic benefits associated with closing the gender gap and implementing GTAs in food systems. There is extensive evidence that GTAs addressing land tenure, result in income growth and greater bargaining power for women, better child nutrition and higher educational attainment for girls.

GTAs consider the specificities of each context and interpret gender as relational. These approaches recognise that women and men experience different levels of vulnerability and discrimination and address the relations and structures that support and reinforce such gender-based inequality. GTAs aim at establishing inclusive and sustainable food systems, in which all actors can participate and benefit regardless of their gender. This implies that solutions cannot simply target women and ignore more complex and intimate relations, social norms, and socio-political dynamics that underpin gender inequality. This cluster of solutions will work by integrating approaches that tackle barriers that social relations, norms, and structures pose. Led by countries, multi-stakeholder platforms will unite to design, finance, and implement national plans to integrate GTAs in food systems structures, policies, and programmes. These plans will include actions aligned around five key main areas of action which should happen in tandem and, which are home to the solutions our cluster has received.

  1. Women’s agency, voice, and aspirations
    • Strengthen women’s knowledge and voice to advocate for accessible, healthy, and sustainably produced food
    • Increase women’s access to decision-making roles in community, sub-national and national legal, policy and business development processes and institutions
    • Ensure women’s aspirations are part of food systems policies and programmes through their engagement at all levels
  2. Access to and control over resources
    • Ensure women’s access to and control over natural and productive resources such as land, water, and forests according to human rights and instruments such as the CFS VGGT.
    • Create an alliance of 50+ global and national financial institutions to implement gender transformative finance mechanisms to design and deliver financial products and support women-led businesses in food systems with the aim of closing the gender gap in financial inclusion by 2030.
  3. Access to technologies, services, markets and decent work, and control over income and benefits
    • Ensure access and availability of quality food for women through enhancement of local production of nutritious foods through dual-purpose plots, kitchen gardens, nutrition education.
    • Develop extension systems that incorporate gender transformative approaches and the importance of women’s decision making, that have 50% women at all levels (decision making and implementation) and that are responsive to the needs and priorities of women.
    • Develop and enhance markets that are inclusive of women and enable them to play key roles across the value chains and develop infrastructure that meets the needs of women.
  4. Social and gender norms, customs, and values
    • Enact policies and programmes in food systems that challenge and eliminate harmful gender and social norms and cultural practices that limit women’s engagement in production and consumption of healthy and diverse foods.
    • Engage men, boys, and religious and traditional leaders in reversing harmful social and gender norms, assuming positive masculinities, and adopting care burden roles and household responsibilities
    • Prevent and eliminate all forms of gender-based violence and exploitation in food systems.
  5. Policies and governance structures
    • Adopt policies that require 50% women in leadership roles in local, sub-national and national food systems processes and institutions.
    • Adopt gender-responsive principles in the allocation of national and sub-national budgets related to food security and nutrition.
    • Include indicators and targets for measuring progress towards achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women in food systems and establish a capacity strengthening programme of work on the project-level Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index.

A framework that addresses the agency, structures and relations that shape women’s lives is key. By building agency (confidence, self-esteem, knowledge, skills, and capabilities), changing relations (the power relations through which people live their lives through intimate relations, social networks, group membership, activism, and market negotiations), and transforming structures (discriminatory social and gender norms, customs, values and exclusionary practices, laws, policies, procedures, and services), progress towards gender equality can be made. Our theory of change requires a move beyond the treatment of gender as an issue between women and men, and instead to address gender as relational, and, therefore, dynamic and something that can be transformed. Gender relations and the structures that underpin them can adjust in response to changes in, inter alia, social norms, policy contexts, labour market signals, inter- and intra-household dynamics, and household- and community-level needs. Critically, while this cluster of solutions addresses and proposes multiple dimensions and approaches, it is underpinned by the right to food – which protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Evidence shows that when women are empowered through education, economic opportunities, access to justice and political participation, they are better able to claim this right to food.





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