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Momentum For Gender-supportive Action & Investment Continues In Asia-Pacific

11/03/2024, Bangkok – Following on from last week’s high-profile advocacy of International Women’s Day, the momentum for action continued this week in Asia and the Pacific, with two UN agencies amplifying the calls for more action on investment for women working in agrifood systems.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) today convened a round table on "Investing in Women's Entrepreneurship in the Agrifood Systems."

The event, scheduled strategically after last Friday’s International Women's Day (IWD), and ahead of the Sixty-eighth Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York (11-22 March 2024), underscored a momentous occasion to celebrate women's achievements, raise awareness of enduring challenges, reaffirm global commitment, and call for action to expedite progress towards gender equality across the Asia-Pacific region.

Empowering Women through Sustainable Investments

Robert Simpson, Special Advisor to the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, opened the event by highlighting the critical role of gender equality in achieving the SDGs and a $360 billion funding gap for achieving SDG 5. Her Excellency Hor Malin, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Cambodia, and Reema Nanavaty, Director of SEWA, opened the discussions.

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The roundtable speakers pointed out that women play a crucial role in agrifood systems, working in fields, factories, and leading small to medium sized enterprises, producing, processing, and trading the nutritious food we depend on each day. However, despite their significant contributions, women often face challenges that prevent them from fully participating and being recognized in the sector.

The event highlighted the ongoing challenges and opportunities in the region and the importance of increasing financial investments that support women's entrepreneurship and leadership, unleashing their capacity to effectively engage in the agrifood systems. With the 2030 target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) drawing near, the necessity for increased financial support for gender equality has become paramount. In line with this, discussions underscored innovative financial and policy instruments and the importance of creating an enabling environment for women’s entrepreneurship.

A Unified Call for Action

Facilitated by Kae Mihara, FAO Gender Officer, the platform fostered dynamic exchanges on enhancing access to resources for women in their agribusiness ventures and showcasing contributions from diverse stakeholders within the region. Esteemed speakers, including Vong Phalla, Cambodia’s Deputy Director of the Agriculture Cooperative Promotion Department, Marie Lisa Dacanay, founding President of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia (ISEA), and Zonibel Woods, Senior Social Development Specialist at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), also shared their perspectives.

As the round table concluded, Reehana Rifat Raza, Regional Director of IFAD’s Asia and the Pacific Division, emphasized the importance of collaboration in promoting women's empowerment and achieving gender equality in the agrifood sector. This event affirmed the ongoing efforts towards creating more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable agrifood systems in the Asia-Pacific region, reinforcing a collective commitment to these goals.

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