Investing in Gender Equality at the Heart of Food Security

Women & Environments International Magazine, Fall/Winter 2011 | Go to article overview
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Investing in Gender Equality at the Heart of Food Security


24 October 2011, Rome - Gender equality was discussed as a prominent factor of food security at FAO's celebration of World Food Day 2011 and throughout the 37th session of the United Nations Committee on Global Food Security (CFS), held at headquarters 17-22 October. The week-long event kicked off with a launching ceremony headlined by Michele Bachelet, UN Under-SecretaryGeneral and Executive Director of UN Women, and featured a round table policy discussion on gender, food and security and a presentation of the recently released World Bank World Development Report 2012 (WDR), dedicated to gender equality and development.

"Food prices - from crisis to stability," was chosen as the World Food Day theme for 2011 following five consecutive years of unstable and rising food prices that have pushed millions of people into hunger and threaten to affect millions more.

In attendance at the launching ceremony were the Heads of the United Nations Rome-based agencies, the Food and Agriculture1 Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) and high level dignitaries including Michelle Bachelet and Franco Frattini, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Discussions were opened by FAO president Jacques Diouf who offered an overview of the current state of global food insecurity and its causes, including low levels of food stocks, greater demand for food in emerging economies, the growing use of biofuels, climate change and speculative trading, and underlined that despite these factors, with the right measures "the world has the knowledge and resources to ensure food security for all."

In her keynote address, Michelle Bachelet emphasized that unleashing women's potential to better contribute to agricultural production is key to achieving food security. She deplored the fact that only 5.6% of aid is currently targeted to women in agriculture even as women make up the bulk of smallholder agricultural workers in the world and produce about half of its food, and reminded the authence that, as stated in The State of Food and Agriculture 2011 (SOFA), if women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, the resulting gains in agricultural productivity could lift as many as 150 million people out of hunger. "Since women are in the frontline of food security, we need to put their rights and needs at the forefront of trade and agricultural policies, an investment to move from crisis to stability," she said. "It is time to make sure that women are at the table where decisions are made, where policies are crafted, and funds are disbursed."

WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran added that the world should not forget the picture is not all bleak and that the tables can be turned on hunger as number of countries including Ghana, Chile, India, Mexico and Brazil have demonstrated. She also concurred with Ms. Bachelet that "women are the secret weapon in the fight against hunger."

The World Development Report 2012: Progress and Gaps in Gender Equality

The CFS featured a presentation and panel discussion around the findings of the World Bank's recently launched flagship publication, The World Development Report 2012 (WDR) dedicated to gender equality and development with the participation of Ana Revenga, World Bank Poverty Reduction Group Director, World Bank Senior Economist Markus Goldstein, FAO Assistant DirectorGeneral Hafez Ghanem, IFAD Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Region Josefina Stubbs, Dame Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO's Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division, Isatou Jallow, Chief of the World Food Programme's Gender Unit and Esther Penunia, Secretary General of the Asian Farmers' Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA).

The WDR 2012 takes stock of the state of gender equality, and demonstrates that in some aspects, gender equality has evolved positively over the past 25 years with gender gaps having significantly decreased in education and health services, leading to better outcomes for women and girls.

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Investing in Gender Equality at the Heart of Food Security


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