Every year the 8th March marks International Women’s day, a day for celebrating the achievements of women and the movement towards gender equality. To celebrate I attended a fundraiser cabaret in Lancaster which opened with the question ‘which women inspire you’? The answer to this question came to me clearly the following day when I attended a FoodFutures facilitation training session. It was attended by 13 inspiring and determined women that are working collaboratively to create a more sustainable and fair food system in Lancaster and Morecambe. I was reminded, once again, of the central role women play in helping achieve food sovereignty. And yet, despite being so active on the ground, all too often women are missing from senior positions within food and agricultural organizations and are so often under-paid or are working in a voluntary capacity.
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 issues 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 theory, in 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 immediate former 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 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