Thursday, May 23, 2013

Caring Causes: Investing in Women and Girls through Food and Agriculture

Women, particularly in developing countries, face numerous challenges, including sexual violence, limited access to health resources, barriers to education, and inadequate economic opportunities. Gender-based violence continues to threaten hundreds of millions of women in industrialized and developing countries alike - one in three women has been the victim of sexual abuse or violence at some point in her life. Furthermore, women’s economic opportunities are still more limited than those of men: the most recent United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Gender Chart indicates that women are still more likely than men to work for themselves or their families. In March, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter released “Gender and the Right to Food,” a special report on the state of gender equity and food security. De Schutter’s report demanded that more work be done to eliminate discrimination against women at household and state levels alike. While the situation of women throughout the world is improving, there is still much progress to be made - progress that could finally help to achieve global food security.
“Overcoming hunger is a game changer for a girl living in a developing country. Fifty-three percent of children who drop out of primary school are female – mainly because they need to work to help feed their families. Girls who stay in school are empowered to make positive decisions that affect their entire lives, such as waiting to have children and acquiring the skills they need to support to them,” says Ellen Gustafson, co-founder of Food Tank.
Food Tank is sharing five recommendations of ways to invest in women and girls through food and agriculture:
Supporting girls’ access to education and success in school
The World Food Programme is currently collaborating with Groupon to provide school meals to girls in schools in 14 South Asian countries. Ensuring food security during the school day not only makes sure that girls are able to concentrate in class, but also takes pressure off of girls to work to be able to feed themselves and their families, instead of attending school.
Teaching women sustainable farming practices
Women Going Green, founded by Rose Karimi, is a five-year project in Kenya enabling women coffee farmers to adopt low-cost climate change adaptation strategies, such as using fruit trees to shade their coffee crops. These practices can help women not only feed their families, but also increase their incomes. Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is working to implement solar technology in developing countries to reduce poverty. A recent SELF initiative is the Solar Market Gardens project in the West African nation of Benin, which will enable groups of women farmers’ cooperatives to grow more crops through solar-powered drip irrigation.
Giving women control of their health choices
The Jane Goodall Institute is helping to address some of the most serious health issues that women in sub-Saharan Africa face, such as HIV/AIDS and mother and infant mortality. It provides essential health services and equipment, along with educational programs to better inform women and their families on family planning methods and HIV/AIDs prevention education.
Addressing violence against women
Using data from the World Health Organization (WHO), FAO’s report on “Rural Women and the Millennium Goals” showed that rural women - who make up the vast majority of women in agriculture - were more likely to suffer incidences of abuse. LĂ­deres Campesinas, a coalition of women farmers in California, is working to improve the public support system for female agricultural workers who have been victims of sexual assault and/or domestic abuse.
Providing credit to women in agriculture
The One Acre Fund is an organization devoted to helping smallholder farmers become self-reliant by providing families with high-quality seeds, soil nutrients, advice, and financing. They place a special focus on helping women, such as Lorna from Kenya, a single mother who through the fund’s investments is now able to provide for her five children by growing maize. Additionally, Kuapa Kokoo, a cocoa farmers’ cooperative in Ghana, established a Gender Programme to give women access to credit without requirement of any collateral.
By directing research and funding where it’s most needed, more progress can be made toward achieving true equality for women in all aspects of their lives. 

About Food Tank: Food Tank: The Food Think Tank, founded by Danielle Nierenberg and Ellen Gustafson, is a think tank focused on feeding the world better. We research and highlight environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable ways of alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty and create networks of people, organizations, and content to push for food system change.

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