The Faces Behind Our FoodEvery year the 8th March marks International Women’s day, a day for celebrating the achievements of women and the movement towards gender equality. As this year’s campaign theme is #beboldforchange, it feels only natural to dedicate this week’s local food column to the central role women play in helping us achieve food and nutritional sovereignty.

For a long time now there has been a global trend for people to move from rural areas to cities and towns in search of work. Within less economically developed countries this move is often made by men first, resulting in women and children being left in rural areas. This rural to urban migration has resulted in the ‘feminization of agriculture’, with women having to play an increasingly important role in farming and picking up roles that were traditional done by men.

In 2015 it was estimated that about half of the agricultural workforce worldwide was made up of women and yet despite this, women still tend to have less access than men to information technology (IT), agricultural training, financial services, and support networks such as cooperatives or trade unions. This gender gap can result in numerous issue including women experiencing smaller harvests compared to men.

As women also tend to be responsible for sourcing food and cooking for households, they are also in, in theory, an ideal position to improve a household’s nutrition.

It is therefore essential that we support women globally to achieve gender equality and enable them to innovate to help ensure good food is available to all.

Kanayo F. Nwanze, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) once said: “Women are the backbone of rural societies as they grow and process food and make sure their families are well-fed and well-nourished…Too often, rural women are doing the backbreaking work. To improve women’s social and economic status, we need more recognition for the vital role they play in the rural economy.  Rural women need more opportunities to participate, improve their skills, gain access to assets, and be involved in agricultural production and marketing. Let us all work together to empower women to achieve food and nutrition security. For their sake, and the sake of their families and communities.”

A growing number of inspiring stories can now be found that demonstrate how women can play a critical role in healing damaged environments, improving nutrition within communities, and driving innovations within sustainable agriculture, if supported to do so.

To read more about the women who farm, join one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to their endeavours, for example @womenwhofarm

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