Gender and Food Security
There is more than enough food in the world to feed everyone, but the number of people affected by hunger and malnutrition is still 'unacceptably high' with disproportionate impacts on women and girls. Reversing this shocking trend must be a top priority for governments and international institutions. Responses must treat food insecurity as an equality, rights and social justice issue. Food and nutrition insecurity is a political and economic phenomenon fuelled by inequitable global and national processes. It is also an environmental issue. Increasingly unsustainable methods of intensive agriculture, livestock farming and fishing are resulting in air pollution and food and water erosion, which are contributing to climate change and food insecurity.
Most importantly, food and nutrition insecurity is a gender justice issue. Low status and lack of access to resources mean that women and girls are the most disadvantaged by the inequitable global economic processes that govern food systems and by global trends such as climate change. Evidence shows strong correlations between gender inequality and food and nutrition insecurity – for example, despite rapid economic growth in India, thousands of women and girls still lack food and nutrition security as a direct result of their lower status compared with men and boys. Such inequalities are compounded by women and girls’ often limited access to productive resources, education and decision-making, by the ‘normalised’ burden of unpaid work – including care work – and by the endemic problems of gender-based violence (GBV), HIV and AIDS.
At the same time, women literally ‘feed the world’. Despite often limited access to either local or global markets they constitute the majority of food producers in the world and usually manage their families' nutritional needs. They achieve this despite entrenched gendered inequalities and increasing volatility of food prices. Yet their own food security and nutrition needs – and often those of their daughters – are being neglected at the household level, where discriminatory social and cultural norms prevail.
This BRIDGE Cutting Edge Overview Report makes the case for a new, gender-aware understanding of food security, arguing that partial, apolitical and gender-blind diagnoses of the problem of food and nutrition insecurity is leading to insufficient policy responses and the failure to realise the right to food for all people. Showcasing effective and promising existing strategies, the report suggests that in order to truly achieve food security for all in gender equitable ways, responses need to be rights-based, gender-just and environmentally sustainable.
The report is the result of a collaborative and participatory process, involving over 40 experts on food and nutrition security and gender from around the world.
This In Brief argues that tackling gender injustice and truly empowering women is not only a fundamental prerequisite for improving food and nutrition security. It needs to be seen as a goal in its own right. In Brief sets out a preliminary vision for gender-just food and nutrition security, which puts the right to food and gender justice at the centre of all interventions. Two case studies, produced collaboratively with food security actors, provide inspiring examples of gender-transformative interventions in India and among Maya Chorti communities.
This Policy Brief draws on recent evidence to explore the unequal gender power relations which create and perpetuate experiences of food and nutrition insecurity. It examines current policy directions on hunger and malnutrition through a critical gender lens. It goes on to consider how gender-just solutions to food and nutrition insecurity can be created that promote gender equality and women’s empowerment, and alleviate hunger and malnutrition for all.