FAO’s Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division, Regional Office for Africa, and Development Law Service addressed the Gender Committee of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) to highlight key legal challenges to gender equality in agrifood systems and provide recommendations for the development of a new model law.
Proposal of a model law on gender equality in agrifood systems comes as part of an ongoing collaboration between FAO and PAP to develop regional framework laws to improve food security and nutrition in Africa. FAO and PAP have had a Memorandum of Understanding in place since 2016 under the oversight of the FAO Partnerships and UN Collaboration Division.
Environmental, social and economic pressures require governments to step up their commitment to gender equality, and African countries that are parties to human rights instruments have an obligation to achieve substantive gender equality. Yet, gender inequalities persist in access to productive resources, markets and opportunities. The model law aims to be a catalyst for legal reform in Africa, providing an authoritative framework for national legislative bodies to strengthen laws and regulations and achieve gender equality.
In many African countries, fewer than 20 percent of landowners are women. Data in these areas shows that the average size of land owned by men is sometimes two times larger than that owned by women. Women also suffer from labour market discrimination, receiving lower pay, which confines them to informal, vulnerable and casual employment. Additionally, only 27 percent of women in Africa have access to the Internet and only 15 percent of that number can afford to use it.
Legal frameworks are important in tackling inequalities, and FAO has highlighted the opportunity for this model law to spearhead regional level change. Firstly, constitutions and national laws should guarantee equality between women and men in both formal and informal settings and be free from any gender-based discrimination. Secondly, they should include temporary special measures to accelerate the achievement of gender equality in practice.
Barriers to gender equality are the most obvious in family laws and inheritance. Addressing these will provide strong foundations for gender equality in property rights. However, it is important to consider additional areas of law to promote entrepreneurship, increase resilience to economic shocks, and improve food and nutrition security. These include laws related to financial services; social protection; healthy and nutritious food; natural resources; and access to decision-making, administration, and dispute resolution. The upcoming GenderLex database, part of FAOLEX, will help keep track of these laws and inform further research on national legislation in Africa.
Following FAO technical assistance, the PAP approved a model law on Food and Nutrition Security in November 2022. FAO is now discussing with the PAP an additional four model laws – gender equality, soil management, climate change and the development of cooperatives. Gender equality should be mainstreamed across all of the model laws to ensure that women and men can benefit equally from any future reforms in these areas.