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FAO report finds gender inequalities persisting in rural Armenia

 

More than 40 percent of economically active women in Armenia are employed in agriculture, compared to about 30 percent of men. The vast majority of those women are informal workers on family farms however, and this fact has major implications for rural livelihoods and wellbeing, according to a report just released by FAO.

 

Armenia is primarily an agricultural country. The agricultural sector, together with processing, is the main driver of economic growth. Women are crucial participants and contributors to agricultural development.

 

FAO’s report, Gender, agriculture and rural development in Armenia, explores existing gender inequalities in agriculture, their causes, and their impact on the economic and social development of rural areas and on food security and nutrition. The report takes stock of the situation and recommends solutions in those areas where FAO is mandated to assist its member countries.

 

On average, women in Armenia earn less than 66 percent of men’s average wages, and their overrepresentation in informal employment prevents them from benefitting from social protection schemes.

 

Persistent stereotypes about women’s roles and responsibilities also tend to hamper women’s ability to enjoy their legal rights. In many cases for example, land is not registered under their name, so they lack equal access to land and other resources such as credit, farm equipment, and technical knowledge. This further limits their economic opportunities.

 

Experts agree that sustainable agriculture and rural development in Armenia will require comprehensive policy action on several fronts, with adequate attention to gender equality and empowerment of rural women, the report states.

 

In 1994, Armenia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the only international human rights treaty that addresses rural women directly and exclusively through its Article 14. By ratifying it, countries committed themselves to undertake anti-discriminatory measures to ensure rural women’s participating in and benefiting from development.

 

To comply with these international norms and standards and to meet the more recent global sustainability commitments, Armenia introduced national mechanisms and adopted relevant laws and regulations to promote gender equality.

 

Still, gender inequalities are “socially accepted or tolerated, especially in the countryside,” said Astghik Mirzakhanyan, Head of the Social Affairs Department of the Government of Armenia. “Rural women spend over six hours a day on household duties – longer than urban women, and twice as much compared to rural men,” said Mirzakhanyan, highlighting a point made in the report, “while this work doesn’t get visibility or full recognition within their communities or society.”

 

The report draws conclusions and offers recommendations to assist policy-makers and other governmental bodies in their planning and programming. It also indicates priorities for improving FAO’s performance in assisting Armenia in this area.

 

Jina Sargizova, a key contributor to the report, note that it is “a product of teamwork in which we reviewed already existing data and combined it with primary information, gathered through field studies and interviews.”

 

The book is the fifth in a series of FAO country gender assessments of agriculture and the rural sector in Europe and Central Asia. It is available online in both English and Armenian language versions.

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