51 Women’s roles and rights in situations of food crises, famines and conflict

How can the international community, particularly the CFS, better respond to food crises and emergencies? How to strengthen women’s rights and struggles in the midst of crises and conflict?


  • Civil Society Mechanism Coordination Committee, particularly the CSM Working Groups on Food Crises, Women and Protracted Crises


Severe food crises and famines have alerted the international community in 2017, most of them linked to conflicts and protracted crises. Beyond these emergencies, chronic food crises situations affect hundreds of millions of people in all continents. The Side event will focus on the role and struggles of women in these situations. Women’s rights and community activists from Asia, Near East, Africa and Latin America will report from their struggles on the ground. They will share their analysis of the root causes and effects of these crises, but also present their demands for the needed policy changes on all levels, referring to both short-term humanitarian assistance as well as long-term policies and programs addressing the structural causes and the conditions for women to fully deploy their leadership roles in resilience and conflicts. . The discussion with other experts, country representatives and audience will focus on how the international community, including the CFS, must be better prepared to respond to these emergencies, how actors can effectively use and apply CFS policy instruments, such as the Framework for Action for Food Security and Nutrition in Protracted Crises, and how to ensure that women’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled, particularly in situations of food crises and conflict.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Hilal Elver, (Turkey), UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Turkey
  • Azra Sayeed, (Pakistan), Interntional Women’s Alliance
  • Adwoa Sakyi , (Ghana), International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers Associations
  • María Teresa Alvarez, (Argentina), World Alliance of Indigenous People
  • Mariam Al jaajaa, (Palestine/ Jordan), Arab Network for Food Sovereignty/Arab Group for the Protection of Nature


  • Women’s structural obstacles to achieve food security and nutrition in situation of protracted crisis.
  • Women as Agents of transformation
  • The centrality of Women’s Rights within the CFS and in the international arena.

Presentations were given based on a regional perspective, analyzing structural problems and looking at the role of women as part of the solution:

  • Communities living in protracted crisis are more vulnerable to food insecurity. Here, Women and girls are at greater risk of malnutrition than men and boys and their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation increases during conflict.
  • Women are involved in all formal and informal agricultural sectors. In the global south many women workers lack formal recognition and they are the first exposed and most affected in situation of crisis and famines.
  • Women experience inequality in limited access and control oven resources, indecent work conditions often with little access to safety health protection and wages below the poverty line.  
  • Women in Conflict are impeded by intersectional impacts of structural barriers including Patriarchy, Feudalism and Neoliberal Globalization. These systems have wrecked our food systems, inflicted wars as a method for resource grab leaving women as most affected.
  • The biggest challenge for women is often to organise! E.g.in South Asia women are generally expected not to trespass into public space. When women mobilise for their rights they face abuse, they are criminalized and prosecuted by state forces under the pretext of terrorism.  
  • Land grabbing results in women losing their livestock, access to land and livelihood.
  • Pastoralist women matter not only for the productive cycles, but have a central role in fighting the conversion of production towards one oriented only to consumption.
  • land grabbing: violation that strongly affects women’s spaces because encroaches upon violence and imposes consumption and paternalist models.
  • our challenge is to value women’s strategies to organise. We need to ensure that every woman including those living in remote areas can organise.

Special rapporteur on the right to food

  • Need to go deeper on root causes rather than only acting in emergency situations.
  • Legal principles are not enough if there isn’t strong political will.  
  • Need to raise consciousness that women’s rights are connected with right to food in every level.
  • Need to protect civil society organisations from physical threat and to give them more space and financial power to represent their voice

Key outcomes/take away messages

  • Women are disproportionately disadvantaged in terms of food insecurity, however, they play a major role in feeding the future. Using women’s own knowledge to advance is central.
  • International and national legal frameworks must be followed by need for political will and serious implementation.
  • Women need to keep building a culture of resistance. Need to encourage women to organise, to self-empower themselves and bring women closer to decision making.
  • Women should be supported to voice their context-specific issues as their needs, and methods to obtain rights are not identical globally.
  • The CFS has to mainstream women’s rights and gender equality in all CFS work streams and link with existing instruments ( e.g. CEDAW). Need to design gender-sensitive policies that meet the needs of the most vulnerable
  • Food sovereignty as a framework that women’s organizations demand, (right to access and control of our resources, our natural and productive resources)
  • The push to respect women’s rights must come both from below and above. 
Side Event - 51 - Women’s roles and rights in situations of food crises, famines and conflict