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 across the world that are working to empower women in the food system.
In Oceania, almost two thirds of the female paid labor force is concentrated in the agriculture sector. According to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), Oceania has made significant progress toward gender equality in the labor market in the past 20 years; however, there is still progress to be made. In a report by UNDESA, it is noted that in some countries in Oceania, a woman’s average wage can be as much as 70 percent less than a man’s. Therefore, women-focused organizations promoting land ownership, agricultural education, and access to technology and resources are crucial for Oceania women to gain gender equality. These seven initiatives across Oceania are working to protect gender equality and empower women to promote their participation in agriculture and the food system.
1. Rural Women New Zealand – This initiative supports rural women by providing training, job opportunities, and advocacy. In their program Women in Farming, women create farming groups and attend workshops, trainings, and field trips focusing on a variety of topics, including breeding and raising poultry, cheese making, and biodynamics.
2. School Meals Initiative for Girls in Southeast Asian Schools – Cross-country studies by the World Bank have shown that programs that provide food in schools can increase girls’ attendance by between 19 and 38 percent. The World Food Programme (WFP) is currently collaborating with the United States corporation, Groupon to provide school meals to girls in schools in 14 South Asian countries, many of which are in Oceania.
3. Foundation for Australian Agricultural Women (FAAW) – FAAW is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing rural women in Australia with leadership training in order to give these women a voice at all levels of decision-making. FAAW provides women who are interested in, or currently work in, the agricultural sector with educational tools and training to succeed in the industry.
4. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM) – AWAM is an independent Malaysian organization based on feminist ideologies that works to support women across the country. AWAM hosts workshops and trainings that help to support women in crisis, educate them on their rights, and promote gender equality in general.
5. Indonesia: Improving Food Security by Empowering Poor Women – In 2008, the World Bank launched this project to determine the most cost effective way to create food security through empowering women. The program now provides rural Indonesian women with loans of rice seeds and storage supplies to help them earn an income and feed their families.
6. Smallholder Farmer Diversification in Fiji: A program in Fiji helps smallholder farmers – more than one third of whom are women – diversify their agricultural products in order to increase income and move away from dependence on a single product. The Fijian government is also helping their farmers to process and develop cassava into a value-added product, in order to increase farmer incomes.
7. Researching Women Smallholder Farmers’ Practices in Papua New Guinea – Last year, the University of Canberra was awarded a grant for nearly AU$800,000 (approximately US$780,000) from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research to study the practices of women smallholder vegetable farmers in Papua New Guinea. The purpose of the project is to provide resources to build these women farmers’ business knowledge and financial literacy to increase their economic success.