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International Women’s Day 2013: Women, Violence and Food Security

This year, leaders of the Rome-based agencies (FAO, WFP and IFAD), as well as IDLO, in partnership with the Government of Iceland, met at WFP headquarters to mark International Women’s Day with an event that focused on the connection between women, violence and food security.

© FAO/R. Gangale

“Women, Violence and Food Security”

The Executive Director of WFP, Ertharin Cousin, provided opening remarks that highlighted the importance of women's rights not only in the context of basic human rights but as a means to combat hunger. Fernanda Guerrieri, FAO Directeur de Cabinet followed with examples of how gender inequalities in access to, utilization of, and control over productive resources and opportunities reduce women’s autonomy and their capacity to act, which in turn increases their vulnerability to various forms of violence.

A video montage of stories from each of the participating agencies and organizations showcased key projects and inititiatives, including WFP's SAFE stoves project in Darfur, Sudan; FAO's Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools initiative in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya; IFAD's work with Family Development Centers in Burundi; and IDLO's role in grassroots legal empowerment in countries such as Afghanistan, Morocco and Mozambique.

A panel discussion, moderated by Francesca Caferri of La Repubblica, featured Irene Khan, Director General of the International Development Law Organization headquartered in Rome; Juvenal Jeremias Rwegasira of the Women’s Legal Aid Centre in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Lourdes Tiban, Assembly Member of the Legislative Body of Ecuador. The panelists cited the role of education, empowerment (including economic, legal and political empowerment), food and income security, and resilience in ensuring increased knowledge, skills, and opportunities for women and girls, and in reducing their vulnerability to violence.

In responding to questions from the floor, the panelists touched on ways in which food security and violence against women are inextricably linked, particularly in the context of gender-based violence as a coping strategy for hunger. They also underscored the importance of a rights-based approach in creating a "culture of justice."

The rights-based approach was further discussed in the context of global development as a whole: Ms Khan noted that the emphasis on rights had been “rather subdued” during the process for the Millennium Development Goals, which were more focused on indicators, and hoped that work on the Post-2015 Development Agenda would incorporate more of a rights-based approach.

In her closing remarks, Cheryl Morden, IFAD Deputy Director, Partnership and Resource Mobilization, underscored the linkages between violence against women, food security and rural development, and noted that improved collaboration between women and men in the household leads to increased agricultural output, more equitable food distribution, and greater family well-being.

FAO and International Women's Day around the world

Uganda: FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, who was meeting with Ugandan Vice-President Edward Sekandi to discuss food security and poverty-reduction, noted that, in spite of the major role played by women in producing food and feeding their families, little attention has been paid to the key role that rural women play in ensuring decent livelihoods for their households.

Ecuador: Mr Pedro Pablo Peña, FAO Representative, Ecuador, participated in a press conference on the subject of women, food sovereignty, and family farming. In collaboration with WFP, FAO Ecuador is also organizing several photo exhibitions on the theme of rural women, the first of which will be held in the province of Sucumbíos from 11 to 22 March 2013.

Peru: FAO participated in various events commemorating International Women's Day, in particular "Woman: keeper of biodiversity" organized by the Ministry of Culture. Attendees included FAO Representative Peru Mr John Preissing and First Lady Nadine Heredia Alarcón de Humala of Peru, who is also an FAO Special Ambassador for the International Year of Quinoa.

Latin America and the Caribbean: To help raise awareness on the linkages between hunger, violence and poverty, the Gender Team in FAO's Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean  developed special commemorative cards in the four working languages of our region (Spanish, English Portuguese and French), for distribution to FAO Representations, Subregional Offices, and other key counterparts and stakeholders across the region.