From May 28th to May 30th, 2013, the organization Women Deliver is hosting their annual conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where international leaders in women’s health and empowerment will discuss solutions to address challenges facing women across the world. This week, Food Tank will feature different initiatives all over the globe that are working to empower women in the food system.
Research from the World Bank indicates that up to 75 percent of agricultural producers in Africa are women. Unfortunately, most of these women are not able to obtain the income and resources they need from this work to support themselves or their families. The most recent United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Report shows that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 85 percent of women are only informally employed, and women are more likely than men to live in poverty. Fortunately, this is changing. These seven initiatives across Africa are working to protect gender equality and empower women in agriculture and the food system.
1. Mariam Gnire Ouattara and Slow Food Chigata: The leader of the Slow Food Chigata convivium in the Ivory Coast, Ouattara has been leading the women of the village of N’Ganon to organize a farming co-operative in order to serve nutritious, local food in schools. Ouattara partnered with Slow Food International to form the co-op, which now produces rice, groundnuts, white beans, and a variety of vegetables. The group reaches out to other villages with the goal of replicating the project around the Ivory Coast.
2. African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD): AWARD works to strengthen the research and leadership skills of African women working in agricultural research and development. Launched in 2008, AWARD helps promising women contribute more effectively to food security in sub-Saharan Africa. The program currently has 250 fellows, who go through a two-year career development program aimed at improving science skills, fostering mentorships, and developing leadership capacity.
3. Marceline Ouedraogo and Songtaab-Yalgré: Songtaab-Yalgré is Burkina Faso’s rural women’s association, which was founded and is lead by Marceline Ouedraogo. The group is the first in the country to produce and sell certified organic shea butter. Started in 1990, Ouedraogo went door to door, asking women to join. The group now has over 3,000 women and 11 centers where they collect shea butter and other products. The profits are split equally among the members.
4. Rose Karimi and Women Going Green: Climate change will require small-scale farmers in the tropics to develop adaptation strategies unique to their location. To meet this need, Rose Karimi created the Women Going Green program, which helps small-scale coffee farmers in her native country of Kenya to adopt low-cost adaptation strategies and diversify their incomes, in order to achieve food security.
5. Women Accessing Realigned Markets (WARM) Project: The goal of the WARM project is to give women farmers the skills they need to advocate for appropriate agricultural policies and programs. WARM uses the “Theatre for Policy Advocacy” tool to engage policymakers, improve community participation, and research the needs of women farmers in order to achieve lasting food security. By including women in the policy-making process in sub-Saharan Africa, the WARM program aims to more fully appreciate women’s specific needs in achieving food security.
6. Aloe Farming and Processing in Kenya: In Kenya, women in rural areas are being trained to farm and process aloe. As demand is increasing for various aloe products, women are also receiving lessons in manufacturing value-added products, which can then be sold on national and local markets. This community-based program empowers women, provides a new source of stable income in rural areas and enhances women’s role in household decision-making.
7. The Jane Goodall Institute: This organization 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.