On International Women’s Day, FAO, IFAD, WFP and IDLO highlight link between women, violence and food security

"If we unite to increase food security for women, we also nourish the minds and bodies of whole communities"

Harvesting rice in India. Women comprise 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.

©Photo: ©FAO/©FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

Joint statement from the leaders*of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO).

* José Graziano da Silva, Director-General FAO; Kanayo F. Nwanze, President IFAD; Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director WFP; Irene Khan, Director-General IDLO.

8 March 2013, Rome
- On International Women's Day this year, the global community is focusing on how to eliminate and prevent all forms of violence against women and girls. In spite of the major role played by women in producing food and feeding their families, little attention has been paid to the connection between gender, violence and food security.

Gender discrimination fuels female malnutrition and disempowerment. Very often, discriminatory practices in rural communities generate biases in intra-household food distribution, whereby women and girls usually have access to limited and less nutritious food.

Poor families may marry off under-age daughters during times of famine so there's one less mouth to feed. Refugee women may be forced to trade sex for food. Women spend hours collecting firewood to cook the family meal, leaving themselves vulnerable to rape and other attacks. Widows are persecuted over land ownership but, all too often, national laws favour men over women. Domestic violence has an overall negative impact on agricultural production and family well-being. For many women struggling to feed themselves and their children today, food security would mean personal and legal security.

If we unite to increase food security for women, we also nourish the minds and bodies of whole communities. If a girl can attend school in a safe environment, she can reach her full mental and physical potential. She can avoid early marriage, forced marriage or other forms of violence. If a woman can register the birth of her children, legally own land and the money she earns, she can contribute to the benefit of her society and its economic development.

Women make up more than 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries.  Improving equality in women's access to agricultural inputs (such as seeds, tools, fertilisers), education and public services would contribute significantly to achieving food security and better nutrition for all.  

Empowering women and girls legally and economically creates opportunities for development, enhances their political voice and reduces their vulnerability to violence. Food security links the diverse elements needed to build a peaceful and fair future for them.

FAO works to get at the root causes of hunger. Its mandate is to raise levels of nutrition, improve sustainable agricultural productivity, better the lives of rural populations, and contribute to the growth of the world economy.

IFAD works with poor rural people to enable them to grow and sell more food, increase their incomes and determine the direction of their own lives. Since 1978, IFAD has invested about US$14.8 billion in grants and low-interest loans to developing countries through projects empowering over 400 million people to break out of poverty. 

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  Each year, on average, WFP feeds more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.

IDLO enables governments and empowers people to reform laws and strengthen institutions to promote peace, justice, sustainable development and economic opportunity. It is the only intergovernmental organization with a mandate exclusively focused on the rule of law.