As our world economy has developed and globalized, women’s work has changed in nature in response to new opportunities while also continuing to be constrained by old barriers. The New York Times published an article by Olivier de Schutter, UN special rappoteur on the right to food, this week linking women’s farming activities, hunger and gender equality all together, reminding us that improving women’s access to equal opportunities is good development policy for everyone.
In a 2012 report on Gender Quality and Development, the World Bank has found that women are more likely to be involved in subsistence farming activities, rather than cash crops for export, and their social standing and institutional barriers has led to a productivity gap in farming, so that women farmers are more likely to operate less productive farms than men. However, the World Bank finds that this is because of lack of access to land, fertilizer and others necessary means of support to productive farming, and not because women are worse farmers for some inherent reason. Furthermore, an earlier study by from 2000 by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that 55% of the reduction in hunger between from 1970 to 1995 can be attributed to women’s increased stature across the globe. So women’s economic equality is tied to both social structures of gender as well as the well-being of all people in a society.
In a new study by the UN Human Rights Council by de Schutte released March 3rd, the UN urges a comprehensive, rights-based approach to improving women’s access to necessary means for farming. This echoes last year’s World Bank study promoting policies that improve the capabilities of women within a human right’s context, so that women are able to access the resources that allow them to have equal capabilities as men. This not only improves women’s lives across the global economy, but also improves the standard of living of all people who will experience less hunger and more robust economies when women can be as productive as men.