General News of Saturday, 9 March 2013
The global community under this year’s International Women's Day 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 had been paid to the connection between gender, violence and food security. This was contained in a joint statement from the leaders of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Development Law Organization (IDLO). Copied to the Ghana News Agency on Friday by Erwin Northoff of FAO media relation office, the statement said: “If we unite to increase food security for women, we also nourish the minds and bodies of whole communities.”
It said gender discrimination fueled 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.
The statement said poor families might marry off under-age daughters during times of famine so there's one less mouth to feed whiles refugee women might be forced to trade sex for food. It said women spent hours collecting firewood to cook the family meal, leaving themselves vulnerable to rape and other attacks. The statement said widows were persecuted over land ownership but, all too often, national laws favoured men over women. It said domestic violence had 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,” it said.
The statement said women made up more than 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. It said improving equality in women's access to agricultural inputs (like seeds, tools, fertilisers); education and public services would contribute significantly to achieving food security and better nutrition for all.
It said empowering women and girls legally and economically created opportunities for development, enhanced their political voice and reduced their vulnerability to violence. The statement said food security linked the diverse elements needed to build a peaceful and fair future for them.