Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. This year the UN has declared the theme “Empower Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty.”
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women comprise 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide and 70 percent in third world countries. More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. According to the FAO, gender inequality is a major cause of both poverty and hunger. Their studies suggest that if women were allowed the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent, lifting 100-150 million out of hunger.
Gender inequality and inadequate access to education, health care and credit pose massive challenges for rural women in the developing world. The global food and economic crisis and extreme weather events related to climate change have greatly aggravated their plight.
According to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), women and girls face still face extremely high rates of educational poverty. They find that approximately 80 percent of the 67 million children not attending school live in rural areas and that the majority are girls.
The FAO cites the West African nation of Burkina Faso as a prime example of rural education and gender gap challenges. According to UNESCO data released today, only about 22 percent of the country’s rural girls attend primary school, compared to 72 percent of urban girls or 82 percent of urban boys.
In Morocco in North Africa, 55% of rural males and 37% of rural women receive at least five years of education.
Addressing Poverty and Hunger by Empowering Women
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) , there has been a surge of interest in recent years in rural women and the role they play in agriculture. This has been prompted by the renewed focus on agriculture – sparked by two food crises; droughts linked to climate change, forcing men to seek alternative livelihoods away from home; HIV/AIDS, which has virtually decimated the agriculture work force in southern Africa; and the growing body of research into nutrition and food quality.
A new report IFPRI entitled Engendering Agricultural Research, Development and Extension, which will be presented at the Global Conference on Women in Agriculture in India March 13-15, calls for a more “gender equitable” agriculture. Specifically it argues that the development of homestead gardens should get the same attention from policymakers as male-dominated aspects such as cash-crops. It also calls for an expanded concept of the food sector – to include staple crops, but also fish, livestock, gardens, the nutritional value of food and the use of water. It also advocates for government policies providing microcredit, as well as opportunities for land and livestock ownership, to women farmers. Finally it calls for more investment in women female agricultural scientists and greater attention to food processing, to better preserve the nutrient content of food, as well as ensuring food safety.
Female Poverty in the US
Sadly the feminization of poverty is, by no means, limited to the third world. According to the 2010 census, American women are the hardest hit by the global economic crisis in every category. The poverty rate among US women rose to 14.5% last year, up from 13.9% in 2009 and the highest in 17 years. More than 17 million American women lived in poverty last year, compared to 12.6 million American men. Single mothers are the hardest hit. Forty percent of women who head families currently live in poverty.Share and Enjoy: