Women ‘Marginalised’

Women ‘marginalise by world hunger policies

Endemic, widespread and deep-rooted gender discrimination stalling efforts to eradicate hunger, say civil society groups.

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Efforts to tackle global hunger and poor nutrition will not succeed unless the underlying “structural violence” and discrimination that prevents women from realising their human rights is addressed, according to a report from civil society groups.

The Alternatives and resistance to policies that generate hunger report, published on Tuesday, argues that particular attention must be paid to the social and political structures that constrain women’s choices and limit their ability to participate in decision-making. These include discriminatory land laws and traditional gender roles.

“Hunger is the result of discrimination and social exclusion. It’s not a question of production,” said Léa Winter, co-ordinator of the global Right to Food and Nutrition Watch network, the coalition of more than 15 civil society organisations that produced the report. “Global policies generally neglect those who are most affected, but women are particularly marginalised. If there are consultation meetings, often women are not even invited.”

The report calls for widespread human rights education, for both women and men, and for urgent action to strengthen monitoring systems and help women access recourse mechanisms when they face discrimination and their rights are violated.

It argues that a human rights framework is the best mechanism through which to tackle hunger, and calls it a “great irony” that the most food insecure are often food producers themselves. “Among them, women and girls, are at greatly increased risk for violations of their right to food,” it says.

While gender issues have risen up the global development agenda in recent years, with a series of high-profile initiatives and funding pledges from major donors, the report says this international interest “often stops at the position of the woman within the household and ignores all other dimensions”.

Instead, there must be a much broader recognition of the challenges that women face, the report argues. In particular, it says there is not enough attention to women’s participation at the national and international level, and that special leadership training programmes, run for and by women, should be set up so that more women can get involved in decision-making.

Anne Bellows, professor at Syracuse University and a contributor to the report, said global discussions on nutrition, for example, have increasingly focused on pregnant women and young infants, while older children, women without children, older women and all males over the age of two have “lost the gaze of nutrition policymakers”.

It is not enough, insists Bellows, to simply recognise the need for women’s participation. “It is easy to say ‘Yes we want women and are trying to hire women’. It is another thing to make sure that their school fees and tuition get paid so that they can compete, to demand an end to sexual harassment at work and in public places.”

The publication of the annual Right to food and nutrition watch report comes as governments, civil society groups and representatives from business gather in Rome for the 40th session of the Committee on World Food Security, in the runup to World Food Day on 16 October.

The report hears from activists and academics from around the world and finds that in Brazil, for example, women face “endemic, widespread and deep-rooted” discrimination in the Programa de Aquisição de Alimento (PAA) national food security programme, through which the government buys food from small farmers.

Women receive less than a third of PAA contracts, says the report, and continue to face discrimination when trying to access credit and technical assistance. In this case, “rural women remain anonymous, disempowered, have less esteem and, not incidentally, earn less income”, it says.

The report also warns that the growing number of public-private partnerships around food, nutrition and agriculture – including the G8’s new alliance for food security and nutrition and the Scaling Up Nutrition initiative – must be coherent with international human rights obligations and that it must be made clearer how they will manage conflicts of interest.

While the report acknowledges there may be a legitimate role for private investment in agriculture, it says civil society is too often excluded from the planning and implementation of projects. “Millions of dollars are currently being invested in neglected agricultural development schemes with a strategic focus on Africa – but the majority of African small-scale producers wonder if any of it is really about them,” it argues.

“More participatory models that engage small producers in identifying the kind of development they want and need is clearly a better way to ensure the achievement of the right to food and nutrition for all.”

Reported years ago and sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Agency Report (The Guardian)

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