The CSIPM and Action against Hunger recently joined hands to organise a feminist round table on the recently endorsed CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender equality and ways forward for social protection and climate action. Read a summary of some of the event’s main takeaways.

Held alongside the 68th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW68), the virtual event welcomed Indigenous Peoples representatives, gender experts, and representatives of social movements, NGOs, and diplomats from permanent country representations. It was facilitated by Ruchi Tripathi, a gender expert at VSO and technical facilitator of the CSIPM Women and Gender Diversities Working Group and Marie Cosquer, Food systems and climate crisis advocacy analyst at Action against Hunger and co-facilitator of the same working group.

Dee Woods, from the Landworkers Alliance and CSIPM Coordination Committee member, addressed the shortcomings of the CFS gender guidelines and the negotiations. The concept of intersectionality was sidelined and deemed contentious, despite being previously agreed upon by member states. “Intersectionality is vital in understanding the multiple oppressions faced by women and diverse genders. It analyses power dynamics and how they intersect to impact our lives. Yet, during negotiations, many failed to grasp its significance, seeing it as an unnecessary addition rather than recognising its fundamental role in our organising efforts,” Dee noted. Additionally, the insistence on a binary gender framework overlooked the experiences of non-binary individuals. This disregard for diversity perpetuates violence and discrimination, further marginalising already vulnerable groups.

Finally, the guidelines failed to address the prevalence of violence and sexual violence against women, girls, and diverse genders, despite its significant impact on their right to food. This disregard renders their struggles invisible and undermines the guidelines’ transformative potential. Wrapping up, Dee emphasized the need for solidarity: “I think one of the reasons why we’re here at UN women is that we need to strengthen our voices by being in solidarity with other women and diverse genders who are fighting for our rights. That has become our clarion call: We exist and we demand our rights!

Taina Hedman, from the International Indian Treaty Council and a member of the CSIPM coordination committee, an Indigenous representative from the Kuna Yala in Panama, shared insights on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, particularly emphasising the need for Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) in decision-making processes affecting Indigenous communities. She highlighted the historical exclusion of women, especially Indigenous women, from policy-making, and stressed how important it is for their right to access and manage natural resources to be realised

Referencing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and CEDAW general recommendation 39, she underscored the significance of FPIC in ensuring just and equitable decisions respecting Indigenous cultures and livelihoods. Taina reiterated that FPIC is a non-negotiable right: “Free Prior Informed Consent is not an option, it is a right. However, during the negotiations, we found ourselves having to clarify it time and time again before member states.” Taina concluded by encouraging the audience to read the full evaluation of the CFS Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality conducted in 2023 by the CSIPM Women and Gender Diversities Working Group.

Berioska Morrison González, Alternate Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to FAO, IFAD, and WFP, focused on the importance of ensuring the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines. “Ensuring that our efforts result in tangible and impactful outcomes is crucial,” Berioska stressed. “Even small changes can significantly improve the lives of communities, especially when it comes to upholding the rights of women and girls worldwide.” She also commended the CSIPM’s commitment and activism throughout the negotiations, thanking its representatives for holding everyone involved to a higher standard.

She also highlighted how important it is to ensure the guideline’s implementation through dissemination, awareness raising, monitoring, and financing. She acknowledged the fact that the outcome may not be perfect, since it is the result of consensus building, yet it must be translated into tangible impacts, particularly for women and girls globally. “The adoption of these guidelines represents a crucial moment,” she added, “now, we need to get out of the Rome and CFS bubbles, and make sure the world knows about these voluntary guidelines and the CFS platform. The CFS is embarking on a new work stream to enhance awareness, use and application of CFS outcomes. We need to engage in this process.”

To conclude, Berioska emphasised the importance of institutional engagement, including collaboration with FAO’s country offices and national parliaments, for effective uptake. “Adequate financing,” she noted, “is vital for realising the guidelines’ objectives.” Despite challenges, she concluded, “this is just the beginning.”

Elisabetta Recine, from the National Council for Food and Nutrition Security (CONSEA) of Brazil, echoed Berioska’s takeaway message. “Negotiating the guidelines was just the beginning. The real work begins now, ensuring countries are aware and implement them, ” she noted, nuancing that gender inequality, violation of women’s rights, poverty and overall inequalities are ever more present in authoritarian regimes. She also stressed the importance of disseminating the guidelines widely, also at sub-national level, and across various sectors, not only focusing on women’s and diverse genders’ agendas.

Elisabetta also spoke about the ongoing struggle to raise awareness about the multifaceted social and political roles of women beyond just economic terms. This requires a shift in societal mindset and culture towards respecting women’s rights. It will not happen overnight. In parallel, there is another structural challenge: countering the corporate control over food systems. “The struggle for a governance process that is representative, diverse, democratic, with social control and participation, and protected from conflicts of interest, must go on,” she stated. The corporate capture of food systems has grown ever more complex, as it also involves the capture of the governance narrative, not just its agenda. To overcome these challenges, we must have a broader social base than what we currently have, Elisabetta concluded. The pressure to achieve our objectives needs to be stronger.

Tanit Iglesias Zayas, gender expert from Action Against Hunger, highlighted the disproportionate impact of climate change on women, stressing the need for gender-transformative policies and programs to address these challenges. Advocating for multi-sectoral recommendations, Tanit spoke about the importance of universal social protection, especially in climate emergency contexts. She underscores the interconnectedness of gender, climate change, and food insecurity, emphasising the importance of inclusive solutions.

Tanit also spoke about universal social protection as a human right and a key aspect to transform power relations – mainly those creating and perpetuating gender inequality. She urged states and institutions to commit to implementing the CFS guidelines on gender equality, emphasising the importance of sustained funding for social protection programs. “It [universal social protection] is an essential tool for us in order to secure food justice. We want to take the opportunity of this forum to urge states to identify and implement measures to reduce unpaid labour by women.”

The panel concluded with a questions and answers session, during which the significance of agroecology for gender equality was discussed. Dee Woods emphasised, “We have a diversity of people practising agroecology in rural and urban settings, with the role of women and diverse genders central to that. Weaving issues together, including not just food production but also distribution, culture, and keeping our food systems knowledge alive, is crucial, and that’s what we do.” The CFS is embarking in the process of developing  the CFS policy recommendations on reducing inequalities in food systems, she expressed a desire of the CSIPM to build on the Gender voluntary guidelines, recognizing that women and diverse genders are key to food systems but also most affected by food insecurity, climate crises, and conflict. “We need to build something that will enable women not just to reduce that inequality, but actually have some equity.”

Watch the video recording of the event

Virtual event at the 68th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women #CSW68



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