The event was organized by the Pastoralist Knowledge Hub, the International Livestock Research Institute, the Comitè Permanent Inter-Etat de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS), the Spanish Cooperation Agency, the Coalition of European Lobbies for Eastern African Pastoralism, the Eastern and Southern Africa Pastoralist Network and the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry.

Junko Sazaki, Director of FAO Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division, opened this side event by highlighting that there are around 200 million pastoralists all over the world, and many of them are women. Within pastoral communities, women are marginalized, lack access to resources and suffer from gender-based violence when trying to participate in decision-making. Developing women’s capacities, eliminating gender-based violence, involving women in policy-making and enhancing all kinds of opportunities for women should be the main objectives of governments’ policies and programs aimed at defending pastoral women’s interests and needs. This is the only way to make pastoral systems more efficient.

Rural women, as Gregorio Velasco Gil (FAO – Pastoralist Knowledge Hub) stressed, have to face a double marginalization: first of all because they belong to the pastoral community, and secondly because they are women. Mr. Velasco explained the work of HUB, which mainly aims at facilitating the existing mechanisms characterizing pastoral communities. HUB’s main activities involve:

  • Provision of knowledge and information management tools and development of technical knowledge on pastoralism
  • Fostering alliances among key partners in order to enhance pastoral development
  • Supporting pastoral networks

The mediator then asked Maria Teresa Alvarez (Pastoamericas) to provide a brief explanation regarding the role of women in pastoral communities in Latin America. Pastoralist women in Latin America do not only work the land. As a matter of fact, they are also strategists, since they need to understand the territory they are working and what needs to be done. In doing so, women not only have an administrative role in leading the house as a social unit, but they also manage the local economy. Nonetheless, women’s role is rarely acknowledged and very often threatened by machismo, neoliberalism and the advancement of agricultural borders, which reduce cultivable space and decrease biodiversity. In order to empower women in the pastoral context and to involve them in the public policy sphere, their work has to be acknowledged as helpful and fundamental in holding communities together.

The problem lies in the difficulty to develop gender-sensitive programs, which would allow participation of women to the public sphere and at the same time would provide benefits for both men and women to the same degree. According to Maty Ba Diao (CILSS), gender issues need to be included in the whole decision-making process. At the identification stage, roles, concerns and needs of both men and women should be clarified. At the implementation phase there should be a clear monitoring evaluation system which shows the impact of the program/policy on women in particular.


Finally, the agricultural sociologist Ann Waters-Bayer gave a clear definition of the roles played by women in pastoral societies:

  • Natural resource managers
  • Income generators
  • Livestock producers
  • Family managers
  • Care and social cohesion providers



There are several possibilities for CSOs to empower women:

  • Publishing complementary/alternative reports in order to challenge Official State Reports
  • Using media to amplify pastoral women’s voices and lobby for their concerns by strengthening women’s capacity to use ICT
  • Organizing festivals and exhibits to raise awareness, with a specific focus on resource issues and women’s relations to nature and livestock
  • Supporting pastoralist women’s groups that are claiming their rights, first by making them aware of what their rights are and then by enhancing their capacities to claim them
  • Evaluating advocacy through gender criteria, such as matrixes to assess whether laws and policies are responsive to the needs of both women and men
  • Supporting appropriate education for pastoral girls and women, which would enhance the ability to recognize and defend their own rights, along with facilitating the political participation of women.


All things considered, what emerged from this Panel is that governments should look at achieving long-term results, by applying an integrated approach. Moreover, it is necessary to intervene at three levels: household, individual and policy level; and in the end, only by addressing and tackling the deep root causes of the issue, it will be possible to achieve women’s empowerment in rural areas, with a beneficial impact on the whole community.


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