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Empowering Women, Girls Is Most Effective Strategy To Fight Global Hunger, Report Says

“Focusing the lens of social and economic development on women and girls is the most inexpensive and effective tool in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, says a new study [.pdf] on gender and food security in the Asia Pacific region,” Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “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 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB),” the news service writes. “Gender equality is ‘the single most important determinant of food security,’ wrote Olivier 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,’ released this week,” Reuters notes, adding, “He specifically noted a shift five years ago in the understanding of the causes of hunger and malnutrition: the 2008 global food crisis led to a realization that there was an underinvestment in agriculture, and especially in small-scale family farms, in which women play a key role as food producers.”

The report “details how three crises — the spike in food prices, the global economic downturn and climate change — disproportionately affect women and girls,” the news service writes, adding, “The removal and amendment of discriminatory land and labor laws would also help women farmers and food producers, said De Schutter and ADB food security and agriculture specialist Lourdes Adriano, who provided technical support for the report” (Tang, 7/26). “Worldwide, around 60 percent of undernourished people are women or girls, and data show that giving them access to education and employment opportunities has a strikingly large impact on reducing overall hunger and improving child health and education,” according to an ADB press release, which adds, “However, restrictions on female land ownership, limited access to credit and farm advisory services, and a lack of education hamper women’s ability to produce and access more food and earn decent incomes” (7/26). The report concludes “that while equality of treatment between women and men and food security are mutually supportive, gender equality remains an elusive goal in many regions, and a transformation of traditional gender roles is urgently needed,” De Schutter notes in his blog (7/25).