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E-views - the role of rural women in ensuring food security


Calls for improvements in education, participation and nutrition were among a rich range of responses to FAO’s online discussion focusing on rural women in a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) framework that ran from 6 to 26 February.

The e-consultation, which was linked to the theme gender equality and women’s empowerment at the eighth session of the United Nations Open Working Group on SDGs (3-7 February) in New York, attracted 46 comments on the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum).

From the many voices from places across the world, we present 10 prominent views from the discussion.

Nutrition - Achieving food and nutritional security goes back to the basics: when did `good food’ change from being what families grow on family farms, to what is sold in stores? What type of information makes a loving mother sell her harvest of eggs and bananas at the local market to purchase bread and soda for her children? In other words, sustainable food and nutrition asks that `we’ engage not only with policy makers, but with the private sector and their marketing arm.

Political participation - Women should be supported in engaging with policy makers and service providers at grassroots level so as to be included in mainstream decision-making.

Violence – Subjecting girls and women to female genital mutilation is the ultimate in power subjugation - to disfigure half your population or more on the basis of deep- rooted and inhuman fears of equality.

Education - Many intervention projects have shown improvements in women’s decision making when financial literacy was given to rural women in Maharashtra. (Gokhale  and Lavlekar 2013 IFUW  Conference, Istanbul).

Corruption – This is one of the greatest evils that have undermined rural women in accelerating development.  A desire for more power is responsible for the destruction of so many individuals’ moral fibre.

Power structures - Patriarchal power structures and patterns of thought and behavior need to be challenged. This is related to the necessity to re-validate the care work women provide for society and their contributions to livelihood and food security. A transformative approach is needed to strengthen women’s position in society.

Access to land/inputs - Women need access to and control over agricultural and productive resources, especially land. They have limited access to farm inputs and technology such as fertilizers, improved seeds, agro chemicals, ox ploughs and tractors.

Access to credit - Very few farmers have access to affordable farm credit. The interest rates remain high thereby preventing farmers from borrowing. The situation is worse for women rural farmers.

Access to information - Access to agricultural information is vital. A farmer, irrespective of gender, must get the knowledge and skills to enable them to improve their farming practices with a view to increasing food production and income for their families.  

Knowledge troves – The most revealing fact about rural women is that they are repositories of knowledge on farming.