Global food systems are not thinking about women. A UN report calls for action

Source: Down to earth 

Synopsis: A recent ‘Action Track’ report of the United Nations has highlighted the vulnerability of women in obtaining equitable access to food. It calls for altering the unequal power structures for more inclusive decision-making in the society that would ensure better accessibility of food by women.


Apart from this UN report, various other reports and findings have highlighted the skewness of power structures in society that make women more vulnerable in comparison to their male counterparts. In this article, we will throw some light on such data, find the reasons behind such scenarios and provide a roadmap for improving the situation of women.

Evidence of inequitable access to Women:
  • Women farmers are disproportionately more affected by climate change and land degradation, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. They face high levels of obesity and are more susceptible to chronic disease.
  • Rural women were among the worst affected among the food insecure population of 821 million (as of 2017), according to an Oxfam report published in 2019.
Reasons behind inequitable access:
  • Patriarchal Mindset has made them subject to multiple kinds of discrimination. They have very little land rights, face difficulties in obtaining ownership, do not have access to credit, and are engaged in unpaid work.
    • This lack of agency reflects in their dietary patterns: They eat least, last, and least well. Women farmers who control resources generally have better-quality diets.
  • Migration is another factor that places a greater burden on women. The male spouse merely performs the economic activity in the new place, but females have to take care of domestic as well as a traditional livelihood (agriculture) in the village.
  • Epidemics also place a higher burden on women. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have not been gender-neutral:. More women have been at the receiving end of increased poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and disease prevalence as per a 2020 UN report.
Way Forward:
  • Robust Social Protection Systems like Dimitri Clubs and German dual training systems should be formulated in every country for women. They should help in upholding their livelihoods, build assets and create wealth for them.
    • Dimitra Clubs in the rural regions of sub-Saharan Africa have been drivers of women’s leadership for over a decade. 
      • These groups comprise women and men who shed light on the gender inequalities in households and communities.
      • They fight malnutrition by challenging dietary taboos, mobilize to meet environmental challenges, and establish a credit cooperative to avoid debt.
    • German dual training system is an institutional infrastructure that creates a path to jobs and better livelihoods. 
      • It integrates school-based learning with work-based practice. 
      • It provides theoretical training for aspiring farmers as well as short-term courses on specific skills.
  • The systems should adopt policies that eliminate barriers to access to fundamental services, ensuring, for example, the right to food, shelter, and health.
  • The UN stressed that inequitable systems and structures that enable and exacerbate inequalities in food systems, should be dismantled. Further,  governments, businesses, and organizations should be held accountable for ensuring equitable livelihoods.


Food, clothing, and shelter are basic rights that every individual requires for their survival. Recognizing this, prudent efforts should be made for ensuring equitable access of food to women as it would uphold their dignity and also help in achieving sustainable development goals 2 (Zero Hunger) and 5 (Gender Equality) of the United Nations.

Print Friendly and PDF