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For a food system at risk, women are key yet often overlooked

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Members of a women's group in Nigeria. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR
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As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, and the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere, Dr. Claudia Sadoff, CGIAR Gender Champion and Director General of the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), declares that our climate change-ravaged food systems cannot wait for the gradual progress of gender quality in her op-ed in The Independent.

From locust swarms, hurricanes, wildfires and emerging famines, climate-related disasters are taking places around the world and our fragile food systems are on the front line.

Our food systems are in need of urgent support, and rural women play a critical role in reversing the problem. Research has found that rural women are disproportionately impacted by the effects of climate change, yet their significant contributions to food systems receive only a fraction of the focus they deserve.

Rural women are hamstrung by gender bias in food systems, home life, economics and culture. Barriers to accessing finance, insurance, high-quality seed, fertilizer, additional labour and markets result in women producing 20-30 percent less per hectare than men.

Women’s unpaid daily household tasks are often backbreaking and time-consuming. Women are responsible for collecting water and fuel for cooking and tending kitchen gardens and family-owned livestock. With African women producing up to 80 percent of food for their household, these women have less opportunity to grow and sell foods at market to improve their financial position.

Breaking free of this gender bias requires a rethink on how rural women are reflected in, and participate in, society at large, says Sadoff in her Op-Ed for International Women’s Day, published in the Independent on the 7th of March.

So, what does this rethink look like? How can we enable women and, in the process, strengthen our food systems?

Sadoff has summarized this huge undertaking into three key steps. (1) Ensure rural women can invest in productivity in their farms, (2) ease the burden of daily household tasks, and (3) build research systems and cultures to be more gender equitable in the long run.

Through One CGIAR and the Generating Evidence and New Directors for Equitable Results (GENDER) Platform, we are proud to say that we are working together to achieve these three objectives. Closing the gender gap completely will not happen in a generation but taking steps towards achieving greater gender equality will help to build the resilience of our food systems, bolster rural economise and improve rural livelihoods.

With UN Women, One CGIAR supports #GenerationEquality, for the benefit of all.


‘For a food system at risk, women are key yet often overlooked,’ by Claudia Sadoff (IWMI) was originally published on 7th March, 2020 in the Independent.

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