Pathways for women’s empowerment in agriculture in South and Southeast Asia

Ha Nguyen, Sofie Mortensen and Pin Pravalprukskul

This brief highlights persistent barriers to gender and social equality in the agriculture sector and gaps in current approaches to women’s empowerment. These four elements stand out that serve as impediments: (1) Women continue to be regarded as secondary farm labour despite their principal contributions, (2) women’s legal access to resources does not always produce control over their use, (3) women’s economic participation is confined to the lower levels of the value chain and (4) agricultural policies and implementation sideline gender and power issues.


To unleash the potentials of an empowering sustainable agricultural sector, policymakers, researchers, NGOs and businesses will need to: (1) Position gender and social equality as a central, integral and necessary component of projects and programmes, (2) Facilitate negotiations of power, (3) Increase women’s ability to organize or participate in collective actions and (4) Support gender responsive policy implementation.


The brief is based on recent Stockholm Environment Institute work and draws on literature reviews on women’s economic empowerment in rice value chains in Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam, as well as a literature review and interviews with participants of a home gardening project on gender power relations in rural Cambodia (Nguyen et al. 2017; Nguyen and Mortensen forthcoming).

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