Statistics help paint a picture of Central Asia’s rural women

23 October 2010, Oksu - Portrait of a rural family.@FAO/Vasily Maximov

Gender profiles for the agricultural and rural sectors of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan – along with a new agri-gender statistics toolkit – are being presented by FAO at a two-day workshop here this week. 

The new products are aimed at supporting enhanced production and use of sex-disaggregated agricultural data, part of FAO’s commitment to helping countries empower rural women. 

When national governments undertake economic and agricultural reforms without adopting a gender perspective, there is a risk that the differential impact of new policies and programmes on women and men will be overlooked or inadequately understood.  To ensure targeted, effective and sustainable government planning and reform processes, empirical information that accurately reflects differing realities for women and men is needed.  In other words, gender statistics. 

All Central Asian countries recognize gender equality as a requirement for sustainable and inclusive growth, as outlined under the globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals. Each country has an institutional and regulatory framework in place, but putting things in motion and reaching the most disadvantaged women, especially in remote rural areas, remains a challenge. 

“We see the individual examples and have logical explanations for the situation,” said Giorgi Kvinikadze, FAO regional statistician and lead organizer of the workshop, “but the lack of hard data makes it difficult to translate the problem for policy-makers into clear and tangible goals with measurable indicators.” 

Gender statistics are important as evidence when confronting deeply embedded gender bias and discrimination. FAO’s agri-gender statistics toolkit can point to priority areas where data is lacking, fill those information gaps and analyse the situation for further use by decision-makers. The core set of gender indicators, a list of 18 items helping to standardize and make gender data comparable, is also part of the toolkit. 

Women in Central Asia face serious challenges when it comes to economic opportunity. Those living in rural areas – though they account for nearly half of the agricultural labour force – are especially disadvantaged. Their contribution to agricultural production is significant, but often disregarded or even invisible because it is informal work.

 FAO has presented evidence that female farmers can thrive when they have access to the same resources as men, making them an important but untapped economic potential in the region. 

Both in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the past 25 years have seen incremental change for women. Social patterns such as early marriage and gender-based violence have been addressed with the establishment of state institutions, including a network of gender focal points in Kyrgyzstan, and range of national strategies and programmes, often supported by international actors. 

Sex-disaggregated data is available in Central Asian countries but not fully comprehensive or interlinked and harmonized with other social spheres, hampering experts and decision-makers from getting a complete picture. 

Rural-to-urban migration or out-migration to other countries – typically by men – is also changing social structures and affecting role of women. 

Work on the agri-gender statistics toolkit, the two country analyses, and a third for Turkey currently in preparation, is carried out under the FAO-Turkey Partnership Programme.