This event, co-hosted by WILPF engaged participants, was on the subject of achieving food security in developing and post conflict countries. Emphasising the link between food security and empowered rural women, the Panel called on those attending to explore the ways in which they as government and civil society can ensure food security through promotion of rural women.
Although women in developing countries represent over 60% of farmers they account for less then 20% of landowners globally and less then 10% in many LDCs. The disconnect between the rural woman's need for and ability to access resources forms the crux of the ongoing food security crisis faced by rural women and their families, both in times of war and peace. Stressing the link between food insecurity and the under representation of women at the policy and decision making level, panelists highlighted the gap between legal policy and practice regarding gender equality. Here, it was stipulated that without gender equality and with it, better access to land, education and training, health services and productive resources, food insecurity will continue to paralyse growth in developing nations.
For societies emerging from or experiencing ongoing conflict food security remains a key issue. Women must be present at all stages of mediation and peace negotiation to ensure their full and equal access to resources and opportunities in the reconstruction phase, as, if ignored, women, especially those widowed by the war, will continue to struggle to provide for their families, leading to stagnant growth. Accordingly, the implementation of gender responsive budgeting is essential, as is the need for government to employ strategies aimed at understanding the particular affects of conflict on rural women, something which can be promoted through the accumulation of sex disaggregated data.
A change in attitude towards women and their role is needed to produce the right conditions for empowerment and consequently food security. Society must start to see women as monetary contributors and facilitate their access to productive and legal resources. If women are allowed to shape policy we will see a positive change in the way resources are allocated and therefore in outcomes for food security and development.
One key challenge to achieving food security in Pakistan is the focus on border security as representing the only security challenge. This militarized definition of security cannot take into account the daily human security challenges facing the population, something reflected by the alarming rate of malnutrition in rural Pakistan. According to Sameena Nazir one way her organization is promoting food security in Pakistan is by organizing education and training days for women on legal and human rights. In addition, WILPF Pakistan continues to lobby the Pakistani Government to prioritise issues of gender and human security as a means to achieving national security.
Finally the panel emphasized that food and peace security are not mutually exclusive and that rural women can be catalysts for peace and food security in their communities if only government and civil society institutions commit to adequately supporting their needs.
Moderator: Elizabeth Cafferty, Refugee Women's Network
Dr. Eve Crowley - FAO Gender
Sharon Bhagwan Rolls - FemLINK Pacific
Sameena Nazir - PODA and WILPF Pakistan
Catherine Gatundu - ActionAid International
Alina Diaz - Rural Development Network
Lois A Herman - WUNRN