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Press Release 98/58 


Rome, 15 October -- Saying the battle for world food security will be won only when women and men have equal access to productive resources, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf today urged the international community to enact measures that would promote equality between women and men.

"This year's World Food Day and TeleFood theme is 'Women Feed the World,'" he said at a news conference in advance of World Food Day, October 16, marking the anniversary of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Quebec City, Canada 53 years ago. "This theme was selected to pay tribute to the significant role of women in agriculture, fisheries and forestry and their enormous contribution to household and national food security."

In many countries, noted Dr. Diouf, "particularly in developing countries and in agrarian societies, production of staple food, cash crops and livestock relies heavily on women's labor. Most of their back-breaking work is unpaid, or grossly underpaid."

According to FAO, rural women have limited rights, and in some cases no rights to own the land they farm. Their social privileges are restricted and they have little or no access to credit, training and the technology needed to improve agricultural productivity. Often they are denied even the right to a basic education. In many parts of the world, when food is served, women and girls eat what remains after the men have finished. This custom results in low birth-weight babies and slower than average physical and mental development in later life, especially among girls.

In developed countries, FAO found that despite several generations of tireless efforts to ensure gender equity, women remain a minority in many decision-making spheres. Too many have no voice in matters that concern their household's livelihood. Making their cases heard is not merely a matter of justice, said Dr. Diouf. "If food security for all is to become reality, decisions that affect future generations must be based on the perceived needs and priorities of these women today."

The FAO Director-General recalled that the World Food Summit's Plan of Action, in a move tantamount to a women's "Bill of Rights," specifically called for "the introduction and enforcement of gender-sensitive legislation, providing women with secure and equal access to and control over productive resources, including credit, land and water."

Dr. Diouf also commented on TeleFood, his initiative to raise awareness of the scope of world hunger and to encourage the public to help end it, that will take place this year from 16 to 18 October. Launched in 1997, as part of FAO's follow-up to the World Food Summit, TeleFood is a televised appeal for global solidarity in the face of world hunger. Dr. Diouf said that during these three days TV programs and broadcasts of related events will span the globe with images and information highlighting women's contributions to the fight against poverty and hunger and urging solidarity with efforts to achieve food security for all."

The main TeleFood concert this year will take place on 17 October in Dakar, Senegal, featuring the internationally renowned Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour and a number of other renowned performers from Europe and Africa. The event will be televised in many countries, some of which will also have their own TeleFood broadcasts.

It was also announced today that a live broadcast of Verdi's Opera Aïda, performed at the Giza Pyramids near Cairo, on 17 October from 1700 GMT to 2100 GMT, will be dedicated to TeleFood, buttressing the Dakar concert.

Last year, TeleFood was watched by more than half a billion people. The resulting $2 million in contributions went to launch 159 agricultural micro-projects in 73 countries around the world.

World Food Day was established in 1979 by FAO's biennial governing Conference to highlight the world food problem and seek solutions. It was observed this year in about 150 countries around the world with various commemorative events.

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For more information on TeleFood, please visit the FAO website at: and click on the TeleFood Logo.


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