RBF Side Event- Addressing Gender Equality Goals in Food and Agriculture Companies

November 22, 2016

There is currently a growing interest for companies and organizations to proclaim their goals and targets for women’s empowerment and gender equality. Many of these are doing so in support of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal #5, to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.  Others understand the link gender equality and women’s inclusion with sustainable development, as well as to the sustainability of supply chains that rely on women’s labor inputs. But which companies and organizations address these targets, how do they do so, and how does the public know that they have achieved or made progress on these?  There is a need to understand the specific and various drivers, who is responding to these, and the mechanisms they are they using to respond.

In order to discuss these drivers and solutions, WOCAN organized a side event on 22 November during the 5th Responsible Business Forum (RBF) on Sustainable Development in Singapore. The objective of this side event was to

  • Analyze the drivers that influence companies and organizations to address gender goals
  • Share knowledge of mechanisms and approaches to achieve gender goals
  • Inspire to change practices in the companies and organizations attending the event

Jeanette moderated the event and started the session by presenting the study of ‘Agribusiness Companies’ Engagement in Women’s Empowerment’. The purpose of the study was to

  • To understand the various factors & perceptions driving the interest of companies in women’s empowerment & gender goals
  • To learn of perceptions of women’s organizations
  • To learn the mechanisms companies are using to address these goals.

Infographic: Summarizes the research

Jeannette moderated the next session on ‘Challenges of women entrepreneurs and organizations in Agriculture’. The speakers were:


Margareta emphasized that one of the main challenges for women farmers is the lack of opportunity to participate in training programs organized by companies. She expressed that she decided to work with integrated supply chain model under the partnership of PISAgro Indonesia because they provided credit, good seeds, training for good agricultural practices, financial literacy and she does not have to travel to pay the credit, it is collected in their village.






Umadevi shared the experience of RUDI Multi Trading Company’s engagement with corporates. She discussed how the corporate contacted them to help sell their consumer goods to rural farmers, but RUDI was not interested to promote those products. Thus, they came to an understanding to sell some of the corporates products in their rural market. The corporate partner also provided the RUDI staff with strategic plan training, they set up a processing center in one of the villages and provided support to monitor and sustain the processing center.





Luzviminda discussed the challenges for women-led small and medium enterprise is the small volume or production which affects the pricing of the products, they also lack entrepreneurial skills and free time to get the training. Another major challenge is the requirement of retailers for their suppliers to be formally registered and certified. These can be mitigated by the government led initiatives.







Debora highlighted that value creation along the value change is part of Nestlé’s way of doing business. She also emphasized that they know that even if men are the ones to attend meetings, it is the women who actually have the knowledge of the productivity of cow or the productivity of coffee in each farm. Women are also motivators and when they work together they are very strong. Debora also discussed the move from Nestle to develop a standardized measurement system in line with the SDGs.





The next session had presentations to showcase partnership between companies and women’s organizations.from:

Thea Him, farmer from Cambodia and Chantheang Tong from CEDAC- Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture. They presented how the farmers in Thea’s community organized into a cooperative of 90 members and were able to sell around 300 tons of organic rice to market through COFE, a CEDAC’s market program, that provide them a premium price of about 15-20% higher than regular market and also additional income from fair trade TSA for supporting community development. Organic rice farming helped her family increase income from 130US$ to 2,500US$ per year which made their livelihood significantly improved. They were able to send children to study at university and buy some more farm land.


Su Su Nge of the Gender Equality Network of Myanmar presented the opportunity for empowering small-scale women farmers while meeting the business goals of companies. She also discussed the various development needed from the government, private sector and women’s organization to support small-scale women farmers.





Alison Eskesen from Grow Asia discussed that though their partners do no prioritize women’s empowerment and gender equality as the most pressing issues, it is the focus of Grow Asia. She also explained that GrowAsia is a multi-stakeholder partnership platform that catalyzes action on inclusive agricultural development in South-East Asia. The platform convenes governments, farmers, NGOs, and other stakeholders to co-create value chain initiatives focused on smallholder farmers and environmental sustainability of agriculture.






The final session was the marketplace session where some of the mechanisms and approaches for achieving gender goals such as the W+ Standard, Women’s Livelihood Bond, SDG Compass and GRAISEA- Gender Transformative and Responsible Agribusiness Investments in South East Asia.