Women: still the key to food and nutrition security

Women: still the key to food and nutrition security

Gender equality is key to food security

This brief discusses its research findings emphasising that empowering women is the key to ensuring food and nutrition security in the developing world. A number of examples from case studies are used from Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Mexico’s PROGRESA health, nutrition and education programme and Ghana.

Findings include:

  • targeting women in agricultural technology dissemination can have a greater impact on poverty than targeting men
  • equalising agricultural inputs between men and women results in significant gains in agricultural productivity
  • gender disparities in property rights threaten natural resource management
  • targeting programs to women benefits the whole household, but particularly girls. The social and economic status of women is one of the most important factors affecting the spread of HIV and the ability of households and communities to withstand its impacts
  • there is no single path to strengthening women’s property rights.

Key recommendations from the study include:

  • reform and monitor legal institutions to eradicate gender discrimination and improve the status of women. In particular change is needed in property rights laws so that women may hold individual or joint title to land, in inheritance and divorce laws, and in laws pertaining to violence against women. Legal literacy campaigns are therefore needed for both groups, and women need ready access to administrative and judicial channels
  • target resources to women. For example, directing food aid to women has the potential to mitigate the impact of AIDS on food security and reduce the spread of the virus. Labour burdens in HIV-affected households may be mitigated by increasing women’s access to labour-saving technologies, such as lightweight plows and fuel-efficient stoves
  • increase women’s ability to actively participate in the development process. Investing in the human capital women can be done through education and by removing barriers to the productive use of women’s time and energy. Women must also be included alongside men in the design of agricultural and nutrition programmes. Involving more women in development processes may require special outreach and training for poorer and less educated women and for those who hesitate to voice their needs in front of men for cultural reasons.
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