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.