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.
Women in the Middle East are participating in agricultural work at increasing rates. According to the U.N. Women report, Empowering Women in the Rural Labor Force with a Focus on Agricultural Employment in the Middle East and North Africa, between 1990 and 1995, women in the Middle East and North Africa were doing 34 percent of the farm work. By 2011, that had increased by more than 10 percent, with women now making up 45 percent of the agricultural labor force. Yet, women still make less money for their work. At this growing rate of participation, women will need much more support in order to realize their full potential through educational programming, increased funding, and farming resources. These seven initiatives across the Middle East are working to protect gender equality and empower women in agriculture and the food system.
1. Women for Women International – Since 2002, this organization has run a year long program training and providing funds to women in Afghanistan. Their goal is to provide women with the means to support themselves financially. Course topics include raising poultry for egg production, growing vegetables in greenhouses, and beekeeping.
2. Voucher-Based Food Aid for Syrian Refugees – United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague advised in a March 2013 statement to Parliament that 40,000 refugees are fleeing Syria each week – and more than three quarters of them are women and children. To protect the food security of these women during a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) launched a voucher-based food aid program so that Syrian refugees could purchase food items with which they are familiar, such as traditional cereals and regional vegetables.
3. Global Partnerships for Afghanistan (GPFA) – GPFA launched the Women Working Together collaborative initiative in 2005 in order to increase the quality of life of women in Afghanistan. GPFA focuses on programming that enhances female-run farms and orchards, teaching food preservation, operating greenhouses, and many other topics.
4. Bustan: Sustainable Community Action for Land and People – The primary goals of this NGO, which operates in Southern Israel, encompass equal resource distribution and social justice for all people. Bustan’s Women Empowerment project focuses on liberating women financially and teaching them the health and environmental benefits of sustainable agriculture. They accomplish this goal through three types of programming: a sewing cooperative, a catering business, and a greenhouse initiative.
5. Sakhrah Women’s Society Cooperative – Sponsored by New Global Citizens, Sakhrah creates small, women-led businesses in Jordan. The cooperative runs several projects, including farming, drying vegetables, cleaning and packaging crops, and a dairy operation. The members of the cooperative equally divide the revenue from the items produced, which can provide a safety net for women whose projects may have been less successful.
6. Hazrat Fatima Scheme – This project, launched by the Agricultural Bank of Iran, provides jobs in the financial sector to educated girls from rural areas to provide them with financial literacy and entrepreneurial knowledge. The hope is that they can then use this experience to develop their families’ farming businesses.