Global hunger and malnutrition continue to be a major challenge, and an increasingly complex concern for the Asia-Pacific region. Of the 870 million people currently undernourished in the world, the largest portion is from the Asia-Pacific region (nearly 65 % of the world total, at approximately 563 million) and the majority are women and girls (60%).
The comparative proportion of undernourished women and girls in the Asia-Pacific region is likely to be even higher given prevailing constraints in their access to resources and services and a range of gender-specific entitlement deficits in several nations in the region. Widening income disparities and associated social inequities, due in part to the ongoing global economic crisis, together with high and volatile food prices, are documented to exacerbate the latter, as these forces have a particular impact on the most vulnerable groups of society.
ADB's long term strategic framework, Strategy 2020, recognizes that gender equality and women's empowerment are critical for achieving economic growth, reducing poverty, and supporting socially inclusive development. Strategy 2020 includes "promoting gender equity" as one of the five drivers of change. Improving gender equality is considered by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to be, a "secret weapon against hunger".
FAO's Gender Policy emphasizes gender equality as central to FAO's mandate reducing hunger and malnutrition. FAO's new Strategic Framework includes Strategic Objectives (SOs) that address food security and nutrition issues, and a cross-cutting focus on gender which underscores the importance of reducing gender inequalities in agriculture, rural development, food security and nutrition as a means to enhancing productivity and for broadening economic and social benefits.
In October 2012, the Joint Communities of Practice (CoPs) on Gender Equity, and Agriculture, Rural Development and Food Security commenced supervision on the production of a technical note/research paper on Gender and Food Security by an expert consultant. The technical note has also had extensive inputs from the gender team at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The publication will be ready by July 2013 in time for the proposed meeting.
In order to advance ongoing efforts across the Asia-Pacific region by the FAO regional office (RAP) and ADB, a three-day high level consultative meeting is proposed jointly, with support from Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN), to raise awareness on gender, food security and nutrition issues in the region, and to identify strategies that would increase employment and livelihood opportunities for women. This meeting will also address issues emanating from the ADB technical note/research paper on Gender and Food Security guided by the Joint CoPs on Gender Equity, and Agriculture, Rural Development and Food Security.
The objectives of this high-level consultative meeting include the following:
Some of the outcomes expected from the high-level consultation include agreed strategies on how to deal with gender inequality and food security issues in the region, and a publication about the proceedings.
Government ministries of women and agriculture and civil society organizations. By invitation only.