Food Security, Development Strategies Must Make Empowering Women ‘A Priority’

“Development actors may agree on the need to empower women, but it is hard to mobilize resources, and to target these resources, when the goal in question is so broad and diffuse,” Olivier de Schutter, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, states in an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network.” He continues, “In my report [.pdf] to the U.N. on gender and the right to food, I argue that one of the most promising approaches is to attach strong gender-sensitive elements to existing social programs in order to make these into vehicles for transforming gender roles and empowering women, at the same time as they work to alleviate poverty.” He discusses examples of programs from India and Bangladesh that “show just how complex, yet worthwhile, a task this is.”

“The lesson from these examples is that the odds are stacked against the empowerment of women, given the multitude of cultural, social and economic barriers they face in many societies,” de Schutter writes. “Food security and anti-poverty strategies must be transformative and make the redistribution of roles between women and men a priority,” he adds, concluding, “This is the only way to make sure that the social investment intended to sustain the poor does not also sustain the gender divisions that characterize poverty and keep it locked in place” (3/12).

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