By Sheshu Babu*
One of the major goals to be achieved in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) policy by countries globally is ‘ food security.’ The UNDP made a ‘universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity’ in the year 2016 and India was one of the countries which agreed to implement plans towards attaining the goals by 2030. Gender equality is most important goal in itself as well as in achieving other goals.
Women, as key producers, managers of food at home and consumers, play a vital role in attaining food security . There are many women engaged in production. In India, about 35 percent of women work in agriculture (NSSO 2011- 12). Women farm operators grew from 12.8 percent to 13.9 percent from 2011-12 to 2015-16 according to agricultural censuses. (‘She is the answer’, by Bina Agrawal updated December 10, 2018, indianexpress.com). Yet, their productivity is dependent on factors like social bias towards male in respect of land possession, inheritance, government transfers, access to markets and credits and modern technology.
In Sub -Saharan Africa, micro-level studies have shown that women play a crucial role in many aspects of crop production. Female-headed households are on the rise. About 31 percent of rural households are headed by women. In Latin America and the Caribbean and Asia, women head 17 percent and 14 percent respectively. (‘Women and sustainable food security’, www.fao.org). But women have limited access to finance.
Animal and seafood
Women are also engaged in animal rearing, feeding, milking and other food systems like fishing, marketing of animal products, etc. A number of women look after animals at home while men are engaged in other jobs or occupations or migrate to cities in search of organised or unorganized labor.
Despite their key role in food production, the women, specially rural women, live in poor condition. Attention should be drawn to rights of women on inheriting land since they are vulnerable in male dominated and controlled society. ‘Women’s rights have to be protected when land rights are formalized through titling or certification, through simple steps like women’s names on land documents’ (‘Rural women and food security — of myths and facts’, 4.9.2018, www.rural21.com). Legal literacy programs and mobilising community workers as para- legals may also help in awareness of their land rights.
Empowering women and achieving gender equality are the most cost effective ways to ensure food security, says UN Special rapporteur on right to food. Women’s education alone resulted in a 43 percent reduction in hunger from 1970 to 1995, while women living longer led to an additional 12 percent decline in hunger levels, according to the report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) (‘Women and girls are key to ensuring food security- report’, by Alisa Tang, Friday 26 July, 2013, news.trust.org) .
Gender equality is ‘the single most important determinant of food security’, wrote Oliver De Schutter the U. N special rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report ‘Gender Equality and Food Security: Women’s Empowerment as a Tool Against Hunger’. He said that neither strong economic growth nor increased food availability per capita are sufficient to reduce hunger, and especially, child malnutrition, unless gender dimension is integrated more fully. This requires socio-cultural shift in the thought and political commitment for a long period.
*Writer from anywhere and everywhere, is a world citizen, and agrees with the ideas expressed in Dr Bhupen Hazarika’s lyric ‘Ami ek jajabor’ (I am a gypsy)