The pandemic caused by Covid-19, emergencies due to drastic climate changes, the risks of excessive consumption of junk food, skyrocketing inflation, rising fuel prices, and the war in Ukraine that limits the export of fertilizers and cereals to the rest of the world is triggering hunger in 27 countries where 250 million people are seeking assistance.
The Woman Post | María Consuelo Caycedo
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The situation is bleak, and Latin American women are the most affected. Since 2019, the numbers indicate that they have suffered the most job displacements in segments of the global economy such as agricultural production and agri-food processing.
The April 2023 statistics from the United Nations The food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicate that the income disadvantage of women in Latin America and the Caribbean compared to men has reached 11.3 percentage points since the beginning of the pandemic. And overshadowed by them are others who suffer the consequences, the children who, along with their mothers, experience hunger. While 22% of women lost their jobs in 2020, only 2% of men were affected by the same cause.
At the Second Parliamentary Summit against Hunger and Malnutrition held in mid-June in Valparaiso, Chile, over 200 government representatives from 64 countries gathered to seek solutions to this alarming situation that has millions of people on the brink of starvation and others at health risk due to the consumption of junk food. One of the agreements reached at this meeting includes an initiative that directly focuses on gender.
Women demand policies that take them into account; they need empowerment from their governments. An article in El País refers to the FAO's projections on the matter: "If the gender gap in agricultural productivity were closed, and the wage gap in agri-food systems eliminated, the global GDP would increase by 1%. As a result, global food insecurity would be reduced by around two percentage points, and 45 million people would no longer suffer from hunger”.
UN Women has stated that women's contribution to agricultural work worldwide is nearly equal to that of men, reaching 43%. However, the control of household finances remains predominantly in the hands of men, as well as land ownership figures and access to credit for farming. According to this organization, "Women farmers control fewer lands than men and also have limited access to inputs, seeds, credit, and extension services. Less than 20 percent of landholders are women. Gender differences in land and credit access affect the relative capacity of women and men farmers and entrepreneurs to invest, operate at an appropriate scale, and benefit from new economic opportunities”.
Outdated and sexist policies affect women in Latin America and The Caribbean. In statements to El País, Claudia Brito, a gender expert at FAO, explains that agricultural policies must give privileged space to women: "It is essential for women to have land because it gives them a voice and a vote in community spaces. This is called patrimonial violence. The laws of land ownership must be changed. Women do not inherit the land. The land is crucial because it allows you to access credit, start a business, and provides security”.
Chilean women from Llay Llay are an example of fighting against this discrimination, but the laws do not favor them. They cannot inherit land from their fathers; it is their brothers who have priority in this regard or, failing that, their husbands. However, they contribute to reducing hunger and malnutrition in their country through vegetable cultivation that they sell in community markets.
If land ownership and job opportunities in rural and urban areas were equitable between men and women in developing countries, surely, as indicated by the FAO, the advancement of hunger in the world would be significantly reduced.