March 8th is International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme is “Make it Happen.” All over the world, there are innovative women inspiring us at Food Tank. International Women's Day is an opportunity to celebrate the success and achievements of women in agriculture, while also calling on more resources and support.
The Open Working Group (OWG) of the U.N. General Assembly recently proposed their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include the need to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The goals also aim to reduce inequality within and among countries, combat climate change, build resilient communities, ensure access to education, promote healthy lifestyles, end hunger, achieve food security, and promote sustainable agriculture. Women are already making many of these goals happen in villages and cities around the globe.
Sixty-six percent of the world’s work falls on women’s shoulders, yet according to Oxfam they only earn 10 percent of the world’s income. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, providing women farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million. When women earn more, they invest more in the health of their families.
“Women in agriculture play a critical role in shaping our future, and need access to greater resources,” said Laurie Benson, founder of 1% for Women, an organization that empowers women farmers. “The ripple effect created from supporting women in agriculture is truly felt around the world.”
This International Women’s Day, Food Tank is highlighting organizations and women that are overcoming challenges and righting the wrongs of hunger and inequality.
In Kampala, Uganda Harriet Nakabaale is ensuring she can afford for her children to receive a good education by turning her backyard into a fruit and vegetable garden. She uses the profits to support her family. Members of her community come visit the garden to learn about urban agriculture and growing their own food.
In India, the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) helps organize poor and self-employed women workers. According to SEWA, 94 percent of the female labor force in India is unorganized. SEWA works with women to become recognized as fully employed in order to receive benefits such as work security, income security, health care, and child care.
The Female Farmer Project shines the spotlight on women in agriculture throughout the world, chronicling the rise of the female farmer. Photographer Audra Mulkern has uncovered an emerging generation of female farmers who have surprising second jobs as anthropologists, executives, scientists, and lawyers, bringing unique perspectives and backgrounds to the business of farming.
The Korean Women Peasants Association (KWPA) empowers women peasants in South Korea and promotes food sovereignty and the survival of small scale farmers. They harnesses women peasants’ indigenous knowledge of the land, organize native seed banks, and oppose corporate control of the food system.
Marji Guyler-Alaniz documents the importance of women in agriculture through her project FarmHer. “I had never realized it before, but everywhere you look images of a farmer are mostly men. Women have always been an important part of our agriculture system, but have just not been portrayed as the farmer,” Guyler-Alaniz told Food Tank. FarmHer tells the stories of women in agriculture and changes the perception of who is a farmer.
In the United States, the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network (WFAN) empowers women to build communities that are healthy and support environmental integrity.
La Via Campesina represents more than 200 million farmers worldwide, creating unity among peasant groups, the landless, and women farmers. La Via Campesina groups have helped organize and participated in protests for women’s empowerment and violence prevention.
Landesa works to help secure land for the world’s poorest people. Landesa believes that ensuring women have land rights is essential to addressing poverty and hunger. The Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights provides resources for women to secure property rights, connects with policymakers to strengthen laws, educates development workers, and trains legal professionals on how to secure land rights for women.
More individuals are working on their own, or teaming up with other women, to make change happen. Saru Jayaraman is leading a national movement to improve working conditions of food workers through Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United. Mariam Ouattara founded Slow Food Chigata, which encourages local women’s cooperatives to grow fruit and vegetable gardens in Cote d’Ivoire. And Kanthi Wijekoon, a hero to other women, was arrested while she was trying to escape Sri Lanka to find a better life for her family. After she was released, she went on to lead programs that reach more than 600 women a year, increasing daily wages for women rice farmers.
Who are the women or organizations you know of that are making it happen for women farmers? Send them an e-card through Oxfam America to tell them you support their work! And we want to know about women righting the wrongs of hunger and poverty! Share with us on Twitter with #FoodTank, #MakeitHappen, or #IWD2015!
Empowered women truly can change the world. The time to invest in women is now.