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A grain of hope linking food security and gender equality through rice

Rice is integral to global food systems. Worldwide, 3.5 billion people depend on it for sustenance and about 1 billion people depend on it for their livelihoods. Tragically, a majority of rice consumers and producers around the world live in or near the poverty line – and many of these are women.

Women’s participation in rice-based agriculture varies across countries and production systems. Women are traditionally responsible for field tasks such as transplanting, weeding and harvesting, as well as for selection and storage of seed and food grain.

Studies by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) reveal that women are responsible for up to 60% of required labour in Southeast Asia and about 60-80% in South Asia. In Africa, up to 80% of food is produced by women.

Sadly, despite their crucial role in rice farming, women’s contributions go largely unrecognized. Compounding the challenge, women rice smallholders also face health and economic risks and cannot safeguard their livelihood against the worsening impacts of climate change and market volatility.

Recognizing these challenges, the Sustainable Rice Platform aims to strengthen gender inclusion and equality into its programmes, tools and network by committing to the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs).

1.) Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality; 2.) Treat all women and men fairly at work – respect and support human rights and non-discrimination; 3.) Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers; 4.) Promote education, training and professional development for women; 5.) Implement enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women; 6.) Promote equality through community initiatives and advocacy; and 7.) Measure and publicly report on progress to achieve gender equality.

“By becoming a signatory of the Women’s Empowerment Principles, the Sustainable Rice Platform strives to ensure a safe, healthy and prosperous environment for women rice smallholders. We call on our corporate members and all key stakeholders in the global rice sector to advance gender equality in the workplace, marketplace and community by supporting and implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles”, said Wyn Ellis, SRP’s Executive Director.

“We congratulate the Sustainable Rice Platform for taking an active role in promoting women’s empowerment. The participation of its institutional members representing actors throughout the rice value chain offers new avenues and opportunities to strengthen the link between food security and gender equality”, said Katja Freiwald, Regional Programme Manager, WeEmpowerAsia, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

As a first step, the Sustainable Rice Platform will establish a Task Force to identify concrete activities to operationalize the Women’s Empowerment Principles among SRP members, in partnership with UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and with support from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. To learn more, please contact Secretariat@sustainablerice.org.

About the Sustainable Rice Platform: The Sustainable Rice Platform is a multi-stakeholder alliance comprising over 100 institutional members. SRP promotes resource-use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems – both on-farm and throughout value chains – and pursues voluntary market transformation initiatives by developing sustainable production standards, indicators, incentive mechanisms and outreach mechanisms to boost wide-scale adoption of sustainable best practices in rice production.

About WeEmpower Asia: WeEmpowerAsia is a joint programme of the European Union and UN Women aiming to increase more women who lead and participate in private-sector businesses in China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, thereby advancing inclusive and sustainable growth along with stronger links between European and Asian markets through gender-sensitive trade and supply chains. The programme is strongly anchored in the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) and contributes to seven United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDGs 1, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12 and 17.

About the Women's Empowerment Principles: The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) offer guidance to business on how to promote gender equality and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. Jointly established by UN Women and UN Global Compact, the WEPs are informed by international labour and human rights standards and grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment. The WEPs serve as the umbrella framework for multi-stakeholder networks to work together to foster implementation and awareness of the internationally agreed business practices that empower women and advance gender equality. The Principles are also the primary vehicle for corporate sector to deliver on gender equality and women’s empowerment dimensions of the 2030 agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Lea Las Piñas, Sustainable Rice Platform | Email: laspinas@un.org

Bovornpong Vathanathanakul, UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific | Email: b.vathanathanakul@unwomen.org

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