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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights
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Big Food Conversation in Toronto

by Oxfam | December 1, 2011


by Lauren Ravon

The first of a series of Big Food Conversations organized by Oxfam Canada attracted a diverse, dynamic crowd. The idea of these events is to create opportunities for Canadians to engage in dynamic conversations about food justice and collectively reflect on how to fix our broken food system.

At the launch event in Toronto Nov. 23rd, four stations were set up with a “food expert” dedicated to each. Groups of people rotated from one station to the next every 20 minutes throughout the evening. Kind of like speed dating – not to find a partner, but to find solutions to one of the biggest challenges of our times!

At my station I encouraged participants to reflect on what gender has to do with the food system. When we got rolling, the discussion turned to what needs to be done to change the food system from the perspective of women’s rights and gender justice.

We discussed some of the many ways discrimination affects women from the farm to the kitchen table. Many participants were surprised to learn that women actually produce most of the world’s food, although it takes them longer to produce it and they make less of an income from farming then men.

That’s not because they are less talented or hard working, but because discrimination makes everything so much more challenging – obtaining land to farm, accessing seeds and equipment, getting a fair price for the crops they sell. At the end of the day, women are often the last to sit down for a meal. And because of gender discrimination, male family members are usually given the most nutritious foods to eat, while women and girls are the first to go hungry when times get tough.

Participants strongly expressed the belief that to advance women’s food security, we need to look far beyond food – at things like girl’s education, changing discriminatory laws and practices, strengthening women’s leadership and  increasing their political representation. They argued that fixing the food system alone won’t ensure that women and girls have enough to eat always, and that this requires a true commitment to fight for women’s rights.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

Lauren Ravon is Oxfam Canada Policy Advisor, Women’s Rights and Food Justice