By Lauren Ravon
Oxfam Canada has decided to put women front and center in its new GROW campaign.
You may be asking yourself: why women? And what does gender have to do with food security?
Lots, as it turns out.
Research shows that if you’re a woman in a developing country, you are more likely than other members of your family to go hungry. This can seem counterintuitive when you know that women produce much of the world’s food and are responsible for most food preparation. But when prices rise and food is scarce, women throughout the world tend to eat last, least and lesser quality food – often skipping meals entirely. That’s why more than 60% of people who go to bed hungry every night are women.
It’s not a stretch to say that discrimination against women is fuelling the global food crisis.
Oxfam’s new research shows that there are many reasons why close to 1 billion people are going hungry today – and many more risk going hungry in the future. These range from climate change to lack of investment in small-scale agriculture in developing countries. From food price speculation to biofuels that divert food from bellies to cars. The list is long, and all must be addressed to get the global food system back on track. But if we don’t tackle discrimination against women and support women’s rights, much of the fight will be lost.
It’s easy to see women as victims of the global food crisis. But if women were given equal rights, resources and a seat at the table where decisions are being made, they could help turn the situation around.
Just think of where food comes from.
When you think of a farmer, a man on a tractor probably comes to mind. But throughout the developing world, women actually do much of the farming, fishing and herding that puts food on the table for millions. The problem is that women’s contribution to food production is systematically undervalued and ignored. Women produce food but aren’t given what it takes to do it well and efficiently: land, seeds, tools, credit and training. Because they lack access to resources, it takes them more time to produce less food.
This is both unjust and counterproductive as the world struggles with a growing food crisis. Especially when we know that over 60% of people who suffer from hunger are actually food producers. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, giving women equal access to resources as men could increase yields on their farms by up to 30%. This could save up to 150 million people from going hungry around the world.
So what are we waiting for?
Putting women at the center of a campaign to fix the global food system is about equality. It’s also plain common sense.