Gender equality, social protection and rural development in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Insights from the region
This publication is a collection of articles written by economists, sociologists, and gender specialists and practitioners from twelve post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia. It is unique in its effort to review and analyze the issues that are at the intersection of gender equality, social protection and rural development in the region. Overall, there is a lack of research, documented knowledge and public discourse on this subject and a multi-disciplinary approach is necessary for ensuring an in-depth and rigorous understanding of these intersecting issues in the context of the region. In supporting this publication, the FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia intends to draw attention to these issues as critical for the socio-economic development of the region, and raise greater awareness among all stakeholders and promote more research in this area.
Furthermore, all countries, in an effort to sustain the achievements of the previous regime, have recognized the formal supremacy of international legal norms and UN standards, including in the area of gender equality and women’s rights. They have also been developing and implementing national policies towards achieving gender equality. However, if we look beyond the average numbers, and disaggregate available statistics by sex and by location wherever possible, we can see that in critical areas (for example, formal employment; access to social services such as childcare facilities and pensions; and participation in local governance, among others), rural women often emerge as the most disadvantaged group.
There are also key issues, for example, access to productive resources (such as land, credits, agricultural equipment and extension services) that are of crucial importance to rural livelihoods but are not commonly viewed from a gender perspective. Across the region, women form a majority in the rural population, and a significant proportion of the labour force engaged in agriculture. However, the overarching trend in terms of rural women’s employment is their engagement in informal, low-skilled and low-paid jobs. Women’s access to assets and productive resources is also significantly lower than that of rural men’s. Rural women’s participation in public life has reduced dramatically over the last decades, and generous social welfare is no longer a social norm.