How food security impacts women in the developing world

Published: Monday, Oct. 15 2012 1:41 p.m. MDT

Indian female farmers sow paddy in a field on the outskirts of Allahabad, India, Saturday, June 25, 2011.

Rajesh Kumar Singh, ASSOCIATED PRESS

World Food Day, which is Tuesday, falls in the middle of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While the connection between two seems tenuous at first glance, violence against women and food security are deeply intertwined.

“Hunger isn’t about too many people and too little food. Hunger is about inequality. And women and girls face the greatest inequalities of all," according to the relief organization Oxfam Americas, which sponsors a project aimed to sustainably feed the world's poor. "When women are hungry, they are forced to make impossible choices and take untenable chances that make them vulnerable to violence," wrote Sarah Kalloch, an Oxfam affiliate on the blog the Politics of Poverty.

For example, in Bangladesh, women in "low-food-security households" are more at risk for physical and emotional abuse. Women displaced by conflict in Darfur face the threat of further violence every day as they gather food, water and kindling for their families.

Women grow the majority of the world’s food — and are also in the majority of the world’s hungry because of vast inequalities in resources and power, according to research by the New York City-based Hunger Project.

Around the world, female farmers face a "grass ceiling," according to an article by Maurice Hladik for Blogher. "Like grass that is mowed and thus unable to reach its growth potential, women in agriculture are hindered by a shortage of government support programs and loans through financial institutions. As a result, female farmers, in many instances, cannot reach their growth potential as producers of food."

The situation is worse in the developing world where women face discrimination in land ownership, lack of education and limited access to markets and technology because of social mores.

Just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women's farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent, according to a recent United Nations report. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent, or 100 to 150 million people.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS