Enhancing Opportunities for Rural Women’s Employment: Lessons from the Joint Programme on Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment


The sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), held in New York from 13 to 24 March 2017, discussed innovative ways to empower women in the changing world of work. 

To contribute to this debate, a side event jointly organized by Sweden FAO, IFAD, WFP and UN Women on Monday 13 March, discussed achievements and lessons learned by the Joint Programme on Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women (RWEE). RWEE is implemented in seven countries: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda.    

In welcoming participants, Carla Mucavi, Director of the FAO Office in New York, explained that the main purpose of the event was to demonstrate that RWEE is a highly cost-effective programme that is making a substantial contribution to the expansion of decent work opportunities for rural women.

This was echoed by Anna Wrange, Deputy Director of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which is generously funding the programme though the Swedish Agency for International Development (Sida). Ms Wrange further stressed the crucial role of women’s economic empowerment for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

From Left to Right: Azzurra Chiarini, RWEE Global Coordinator, Ramon Garway, RWEE National Coordinator in Liberia, Carla Mucavi, Director of the FAO Liaison Office in New York; Kawinzi Muiu, Director of Gender, WFP; Anna Wrange, Deputy Director at the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Photo credit: FAO/Bryce Seockhwan Hwang

The opening remarks were followed by more detailed insights and experiences from the programme, shared by Azzurra Chiarini, RWEE Global Coordinator, and Ramon Garway, RWEE National Coordinator in Liberia.

The Global Coordinator pointed out how RWEE has already benefited over 30,000 women and 150,000 household members in the seven countries. She underscored how the initiative improved: (i) food security at local levels, (ii) decision making power among rural women and their relationship with husbands/partners and contributed (iii) to creating comprehensive national strategies for rural women’s empowerment (in Nepal, Ethiopia and Guatemala). For instance, in Guatemala, the initiative supported the first-ever gender strategy of the Ministry of Agriculture while in Nepal RWEE was chosen as pilot initiative for the implementation of the National Agricultural Development Strategy.  

In order to ensure its sustainability, Ms. Chiarini proposed a 3-pronged strategy that involves; Consolidating the results achieved, Scaling-up to additional 50,000 women that are already identified, and Replicating the approach of RWEE in other countries. 

          A woman farmer at work in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia. Photo credit: Fikerte Abebe/UN Women

She also stressed the need to invest in knowledge management efforts to identify and scale up good practices that will further strengthen inter-agency collaboration to empower rural women economically, and to end extreme poverty and hunger everywhere.

The National Coordinator for RWEE in Liberia further showcased how a comprehensive “package” of literacy classes, business and vocational training, mentoring and job placements led to 16% of the RWEE target group in Liberia gaining formal employment. In terms of the key benefits, Mr. Garway noted how the literacy and business trainings as well as the awareness raising on women’s rights strengthened rural women’s self-confidence and their participation in public life. He also highlighted the need to engage with men while designing such initiatives for rural women.

During the panel discussion, moderator Kawinzi Muiu, Director of the WFP Gender Office, created a dialogue that involved representatives of governments and UN Agencies from countries participating in RWEE.

According to the panellists, the key success factors for initiatives focused on rural women’s empowerment include:

  • The critical contribution of investment in skills and know-how of rural women to respond to the challenges faced in relation to the changing world of work;
  • Timely completion of a baseline that provided a clear intervention strategy to ensure that RWEE was responding to the specific needs of rural women in a given context;
  • New skills and economic contributions that resulted in an improvement in the relationships women have with their husbands/male members of their families. This was achieved not only by facilitating women’s access to income, but also through the meaningful engagement of men;
  • Close coordination and information sharing with governments, preventing duplications and ensuring ownership and sustainability at local and national levels. 

As underlined by Ms. Muiu in her closing remarks, “The impact of RWEE is clear, but the programme has a great potential to further support the empowerment of rural women”; for this reason, she called on the donor community to provide additional funding to the Joint Programme.


More pictures of the event can be found here.

For more information about the Joint Programme on “Accelerating Progress towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women”, please contact: Azzurra Chiarini, Global Coordinator


Rural women’s world of work is linked to agriculture and natural resources. Showcasing best practices from the Joint Programme on Accelerating Rural Women’s Economic Empowerment (RWEE), panelists will demonstrate the main achievements of RWEE in job creation, income generation, climate-smart agriculture, and its contribution to sustainable development.


The 2030 Agenda and the SDGs have the potential to contribute significantly to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. In order to deliver on the new global agenda, economic empowerment of rural women, through the engagement of women in productive and income-generating on- and off-farm activities has to be central to policy making and programmatic interventions in rural areas.

Since 2012, FAO, IFAD, WFP and UN Women have been implementing RWEE in seven countries: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Niger and Rwanda. RWEE leverages the respective agencies’ comparative advantages to promote a conducive environment through which productive activities of rural women, their rights to and at work, are accomplished.

RWEE focuses on: (i) rural women’s improved food and nutrition security; (ii) increased rural women’s incomes to sustain their livelihoods; (iii) women’s enhanced leadership and participation in rural institutions and in shaping laws, policies and programmes; and (iv) enabling policy environment for the economic empowerment of rural women.

In the three years of its implementation, the Joint Programme RWEE has yielded results in engaging rural women to address key structural barriers to gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. RWEE has, among other achievements, enabled a conducive environment through which productive activities of rural women, their rights to and at work, are accomplished.  RWEE has helped empower rural women to contribute to the reduction of rural poverty and promotion of sustainable rural development, both in policy and in action.


Panelists will share experiences related to the challenges facing rural women, and where successful solutions have been found. Discussions will identify good practices, key actions and next steps to accelerate progress towards rural women’s economic empowerment with the support of partners and funding.


Agenda here. Flyer here.

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  • Princess Olayemi JOLEDO-AYOMAH
    Would be intrested in attending this programme, hope to be in New York for te CSW61, and also find out if there would be a live transmission.
    As a rural woman farmer in Nigeria, i would like to ask if this Programme can be extended to Nigeria. Thank you.
  • Claire McConnell
    Will this event be live-streamed, or recorded and uploaded to the Empower Women youtube channel? I would be interested to see what conclusions are reached.
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