Gender equality and food security: women’s empowerment as a tool against hunger

Gender equality and food security: women’s empowerment as a tool against hunger

Report on the contribution of gender equality to food security strategies in Asia and the Pacific

Released during the Asia and the Pacific Regional High-level Consultation on Gender, Food Security and Nutrition (July 2013), this report explores the relationship between gender-based discrimination and the different channels through which households and individuals access food. Focusing on Asia and the Pacific, the author Dr. Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, presents evidence that gender equality must be improved in order to reduce hunger.

The report describes the especially severe impacts on women and girls caused by the current ecological crisis (particularly climate changes accompanied by population growth, shifting diets and rising demand for non-food crops), the economic and financial crisis, and the food price crisis. Reasons for this include the increased proportion of women among small-scale food producers and the unequal bargaining power of women within households.

Recommendations for achieving appropriate and effective gender-sensitive food and nutrition security strategies at the country level include:

  • aim to rapidly progress toward food and nutrition security in a way that improves the situation of women, and maximises their contribution to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition; develop multi-sectoral and multi-year country-level strategies in a participatory fashion;
  • set out clear targets and define time frames to ensure prompt action; and allocate responsibilities across appropriate departments—in particular education, health, employment, social affairs, agriculture, rural development, etc.
The following key lessons emerged from the various examples of policies, strategies, and programmes described in this report:
  1. the participation of women in setting priorities and formulating policies and programmes requires broad and inclusive consultation.
  2. take a context-sensitive approach that prioritises the participation of women, refrains from the top–down imposition of values from the outside, and presents women with alternatives and examples of empowerment experienced by women in similar contexts.
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