Declaration on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls

“How long will it take for our voices to reach your hearts? We do not see ourselves reflected in this document, our voice has been taken away, our voice has been erased. What a sad reality. It hurts.”

As a diverse group made up of people from the South and the North, we rural women, indigenous women, women from war-torn countries, women living under occupation, non-cisheteronormative people, terns, landless such as pastoralists, farmers and food workers -food industries, consumers, and food-insecure urban women, we repeatedly show, based on our lived experience, that women and others who have historically been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity experience multiple and interrelated forms of discrimination . Every form of discrimination and injustice prevents us from realizing our human right to adequate food and nutrition (the right to food), which is interdependent with all other human rights. During the process of developing the Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls (VIGMN) at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) of the United Nations, so far, despite the difficulties for those we encountered to share personal episodes of violence, we have shown how it continues to be a part of our daily lives. We have revealed how it intersects with other forms of oppression, preventing us from accessing natural resources, producing and receiving food with dignity. Around the world, we are collectively fighting to expose and correct socio-political power hierarchies rooted in gender relations, and for a society and food system where all genders and sexualities have equal rights.

CFS has already recognized the need to achieve gender equality and the full realization of women’s rights in the context of food security and nutrition. Back in 2017, at its plenary session, the CFS highlighted the need to work towards the implementation and follow-up of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, especially its General Recommendation No. 34 (2016) on the rights of rural women. We cannot accept anything less from CFS than a vision to produce an ambitious document. As a leading inclusive international and intergovernmental platform, the Committee must address gender-based discrimination as a cross-cutting issue that prevents more than half of the world’s population from realizing their right to food. Women and girls are the majority of those who produce and provide food for their households. They make up the majority of nurses, care and social workers, food and agricultural workers, and those in education. Non-heteronormative people also contribute to local food production in all regions. However, they continue to face intertwined forms of discrimination that seriously affect their access to adequate and nutritious food. As human beings, the fundamental rights of women, girls and non-heteronormative people must be recognized.

In the current world context, ravaged by conflicts and multiple crises, the rights of women, girls and people who fall outside the heteronormative social and cultural norms are undergoing a dramatic and alarming regression, so it is especially important to have ambitious guidelines. This regression shows that patriarchy remains entrenched in our societies and demonstrates the vital and urgent need for a groundbreaking document on gender equality in the context of food security and nutrition.

“War feminizes poverty and hunger. Do you think it is possible to talk about the right to food without talking about peace? Most of the women who are stuck in poverty, who are struggling with hunger, are rural women. And here we deny them the status of peasants.”

Since 2019, the policy convergence process to develop Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls reflects CFS’s commitment to promoting gender equality for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food. It also reflects the empathetic and inclusive nature of CFS. Initially, the voices of the people most affected were prioritized, which could lead to a robust document that recognized the different socio-economic realities faced by women and non-binary people in different territories. However, under the guise of creating a false consensus among member states, during the last round of negotiations, many fundamental issues that had arisen until then in the IGEMN process were removed from the negotiating text without any test-based reasoning. We believe that a true commitment to gender equality does not avoid different positions, but encourages debate on the issues under discussion and takes into account the available evidence. The CSA must fully understand and address them. This is the prerequisite for the Mechanism for Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples (MSCPI) to continue in the policy convergence process. We cannot accept that references to very important issues, forms of oppression, violations of rights and lives are rendered invisible because this allows discrimination and violations to continue unabated. Furthermore, if the process of policy convergence is based on the premise that we should stick only to the agreed language, the patriarchal status quo that shapes existing oppressive gender norms will never be transformed.

“Coming from the African continent, I want to express my frustration, especially when I talk about issues related to intersectionality, because where I come from, on my continent, a woman can face many different forms of oppression; this is the reality of millions of people.”

“Coming from the African continent, I want to express disappointment, especially when you talk about the issues around intersectionality, because where I come from, on my continent, a woman can go through so many different forms of oppression; this is the reality of millions of people.”

Rather than avoiding controversial issues, it is advisable to consider and discuss them and their implications for the relationship between gender equality and food security and nutrition. For this reason, we strongly recommend that CFS organize special sessions where experts (ie officials, special rapporteurs, independent experts, UN working groups, academics, specialized civil society organizations, etc.) can present evidence to support further discussions between CFS members and participants. As the IGEMN process did not benefit from a report from the High Level Expert Group, these meetings were actually planned and budgeted for but never took place.

Two thematic areas are critical to these special sessions:

First, sessions on gender-transformative approaches and language, including intersectionality, sexual and reproductive health rights, sexual and gender-based violence, gender diversity, and gender-transformative approaches.

Second, sessions on what CFS understands as UN Agreed Language, specifically references to peasants and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, CFS’s mandate and role in relation to UN Agreed Language and how this language should be included in the CFS policy negotiations.

A well-informed discussion on these thematic areas will benefit the CFS policy convergence process in IGEMN as well as future CFS work streams as a whole. We hope that these meetings can encourage discussion, provide guidance on the topic areas defined so far, and help find a way forward based on meaningful consensus.

“The process and the way things are done is probably what got us here. If we don’t change the way things are done, if we don’t listen to those who are really behind the document, if we don’t make progress, there’s no way we’re going to change things.”

“The process and the way things are done is probably what got us here. Unless we change the way we do things, unless we listen to those who are really at the heart of the document, unless we can move forward, there’s no way we’re going to change things.”

The quotes included in this statement come from MSCPI interventions during the third round of negotiations on the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls. Some have been translated from a language other than Spanish, and therefore some of the original meaning may have been lost in translation (which is why the original quote appears below the translation each time).

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