International Women’s Day 2016

iwd.jpgToday is International Women’s Day and this year organisers are asking everyone to #PledgeForParity. Despite the contribution women make to social, economic, cultural and political development, gender parity, whereby men and women are equal in status and pay, has not yet been achieved and is unlikely to be achieved in the near future without significant support. In fact, progress has slowed in many places and where the World Economic forum was predicting that it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity, they have now revised this to an estimate that the gender gap won’t close entirely until 2133.

Women are the largest emerging market in the world, account for half of the global labour supply and about 70% of global consumption demand. Failing to achieve gender parity will stunt economic and social development while meeting this goal will bring greater economic prosperity. Global studies have found the following outcomes when women are equal in business and politics:

  • Higher GDP
  • More productivity
  • Better share prices and financial performance
  • Better all-round performance
  • More prosperity

As one study puts it “Greater gender equality in educational and employment opportunities fosters faster, more inclusive growth, not only because women are half of the world’s population but also because they are more likely than men to invest in the human capital of their families”. [Read more…]

International Women’s Day 2014

womenwatchAround the world some 600 million women are smallholder farmers or landless workers. A new video from CGIAR showcases the experiences of twelve women from Zambia, Bangladesh, Philippines and Cambodia to mark International Women’s Day on 8th March 2014.

Recognition of the importance of focusing on gender in agricultural development has been growing but authors of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s State of Food and Agriculture 2010/11: Women in agriculture, claim that in the writing of the report many gender myths became apparent. Statistics repeatedly used but for which there is little hard evidence. As an example it is commonly stated that women produce 60-80% of food but only own 2% of the land, yet these claims are often generalised, out of date or hard to track to their original source. Through investigating big data such as this it became clear to authors that evidence on women in agriculture was outdated and quite poor. The picture of gender in agriculture that emerged was far more nuanced, as Terri Rainey of FAO discussed at a policy seminar, Beyond Gender Myths, held by the International Food Policy Research Institute in November 2013.

While it is very hard to generalise, women tend to operate smaller farms then men and generate lower yields because they have access to fewer inputs. The FAO calculated that If this yield gap (on average around 20-30%) was closed, national level gains in productivity of around 2.5-4% would result, which would reduce the number of  hungry by 12-17%, the equivalent of 100 to 150 million people. These numbers have been widely criticised both for being too large and also too low. As productivity was only increased on female-headed households’ farms, despite women being much more broadly involved in agriculture, Terri Rainey believes these increases in yields and reductions in hunger are an underestimate of the transformational change that focusing on increasing female farmers’ productivity can bring about.

The SOFA report helped dispel some of the myths and it also generated significant amounts of information, motivating the development of a new publication due to be released this spring. The book, “Gender in Agriculture and Food Security: Closing the Knowledge Gap” is a comprehensive handbook on the state of knowledge in gender and agriculture.

Closing the gaps be they knowledge gaps, yield gaps or gaps in access to productive resources is clearly an urgent challenge and one that could bring about transformational global change, and one that fits with the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day,  “equality for women is progress for all”. [Read more…]