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.
According to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, if women had the same access to resources that men have, global malnutrition could be reduced by up to 17 percent. But lingering gender discrimination limits the successful involvement of women in food production. For example, only slightly more than 20 percent of those employed in the agriculture sector in Latin America are women. Initiatives like those in South and Central American outlined below can help empower women and increase and support their role in agricultural production.
1. Latin American and Caribbean Center for Rural Women (Enlac): The Latin American and Caribbean Center for Rural Women serves as an organizing voice for marginalized, rural women. Enlac calls for policies that give Latin American and Caribbean women equal access to land rights, raise awareness about violence against female agriculture workers, boost access to clean water, and conserve native seeds.
2. La Via Campesina: Via Campesina-affiliated groups have often and loudly championed female farmers and agriculture workers and called attention to the challenges they face, especially the violence perpetrated against women around the world. In 2012, La Via Campesina released a report called “Stop the Violence against Women!” to increase awareness of violence against women. La Via Campesina groups have helped organize and participated in protests for women’s empowerment and violence prevention.
3. Honduran Women and Farmers: Violence against women in Honduras has skyrocketed in the last few years, but the women of Honduras are organizing and advancing their demands for equal rights and protection against violence. On International Women’s Day 2013, hundreds of women from all over Honduras marched on the Presidential Palace and the National Congress to demand equal access to land rights and to denounce violence against women.
4. Brazilian Women Urban Farming Cooperative: Visitors to the neighborhood of Parque Genesiano da Luz, one of the poorest areas of Nova Iguaçu, Brazil will notice something interesting when they peer into the neighborhood’s seemingly vacant lots – small community gardens. In 2007, Brazilian state-owned oil company Petrobas financed a project to help families start several community gardens, but when Petrobas’ financing ended, many families stopped gardening altogether. A group of dedicated women continued even in the face of severe hardship – lacking seeds, transportation to take their produce to the market, and tools. The women banded together and formed the Univerde Cooperative to facilitate knowledge sharing and the sale of their excess produce in the local market.
5. Two Paraguayan Female Farmers: In Paraguay, two female farmers are making sure that women’s voices are represented in decisions around rural development and agriculture projects. Flora Cañete de Sanabria and Edita de Jesús Franco de Sanabria are the only women on a 28-member committee of rural producers operating under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Sustainable Rural Development Project. Flora and Edita are examples of the work that women are doing across the world to break down barriers and bring new perspectives on agricultural decisions.
6. Jatun Sach’a Project- Bolivia: In Bolivia, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime started the Jatun Sach’a project to provide rural women with training on innovative uses of local plants. Through increased knowledge of native vegetables and other plants, such as the yucca and majo, the women in the program create products for their families and the local communities that increase food access and nutrition.
7. Nicaraguan Women’s Affairs Office: Women across South and Central America are often marginalized due to insecure land inheritance and land ownership rights. In Nicaragua, the Women’s Affairs Office (WAO) held trainings to increase gender sensitivity, and launched campaigns aimed at increasing acceptance of women’s land ownership.