From May 28th to May 30th, 2013, the organization Women Deliver will host their annual conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where international leaders in women’s health and empowerment will discuss solutions to address challenges facing women all over the globe. This week, Food Tank will feature different initiatives across the world that are working to empower women in the food system.
According to the European Commission’s EuropeAid Cooperation Office, European women are underrepresented in government and decision-making bodies, have fewer opportunities within labor and financial markets, and are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, when it comes to major decisions about climate change, which is having a crucial impact on global food security, the role of female decision-makers is sorely lacking. In negotiations under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change over the past decade, women accounted for only 30 percent of registered country delegates and 10 percent of heads of delegations. These seven initiatives across Europe are working to protect gender equality and empower women in the areas of political inclusion, sexual violence, and health, to promote women’s participation in agriculture and the food system.
1. Il Buon Seme (The Good Seed) – According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, women around the world are taking the lead in transforming farms to do more than just produce food. In Italy, farmers like Luisa Vergnano are combining on-farm tourism with community engagement. At her farm in Asti, part of the farmhouse serves as a social cooperative to create housing for mothers and children.
2. Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) – The capacity to adapt to climate change largely depends on resources, education, technology, and basic services for all, particularly women. For over two decades, WEN has been fighting for environmental justice by ensuring that women have the resources they need to make informed decisions. WEN is composed of a number of women-led groups, working in areas such as women’s health and reproduction, climate change, and local food systems across the U.K.
3. Not for Sale, Calacea Farm, Romania (NFS) – According to NFS, every year thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked into and through Romania for prostitution or forced labor. Together with their partner organization, Mariana, NFS operates the Calacea Organic Farm, which protects, rehabilitates, and repatriates survivors of trafficking. The farm provides opportunities for health care, education, life skill training, and new employment for survivors.
4. Ocean Somali Community Association (OSCA) – According to the OSCA Women’s Project, Somali women with limited English language skills are some of the most socially excluded people living in the U.K. During the past year, OSCA has worked with over 300 women, delivering 50 workshops and administering three projects to empower women by delivering educational, recreational and one-to-one support activities. The Mothers and Daughters Healthy Lives project, for example, delivers healthy cooking classes with nutrition, lifestyle coaching and gardening.
5. The Mary Robinson Foundation, Climate Justice (MRFCJ) – U.N. Women asserts that discriminatory gender norms mean that women have fewer social and economic resources than men. The MRFCJ, founded by Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first female President, is an innovative center for thought that addresses this gap. By creating global partnerships,the foundation is making strides in food and nutrition security, as well as in women’s leadership in organizations that address gender equality and climate change.
6. Elämän Värit (The Colours of Life) – According to the Finnish State Secretary of Education and Culture Jarmo Lindén, “women’s participation in rural development is crucial to promoting socially, economically and ecologically sustainable development.” Founded by six women dairy farmers and a textile designer, the Finnish handicraft cooperative, Elämän Värit, puts this principle into action. The cooperative manufactures textiles to sell to urban populations, giving a positive image to the countryside, while also providing a space for isolated women to come together.
7. Women’s Agricultural Cooperative of Pétra – In 1983, rural Greek women in the town of Pétra on the island of Lesvos established this organization for financial liberation and empowerment. After the demonstrated success of the cooperative, the Greek government established its national Women’s Agricultural Cooperative Council only two years later. The cooperative now acts as a major agro-tourism site, where women sell traditional Greek foods, such as olive oils and pastas.