Far too many people in the world are hungry.
Nearly 870 million people don’t know where their next meal is going to come from but one promising solution is to empower women with the tools they need to farm.
A mounting body of evidence shows that reducing gender inequality is an important part of the solution to global hunger. Indeed, according to a report released in July by the Asian Development Bank, gender inequality constrains women’s roles in agriculture and food production and undermines food security. And according to the World Food Programme, which is the food arm of the United Nations, if women farmers had the same access to agricultural opportunities as men do, the number of hungry people could be reduced by up to 150 million. Though women are currently the primary producers of food in many developing countries, female farmers suffer from scarcer resources and services.
The solution is to empower women beyond farming. When women have greater economic independence, it improves their bargaining power in the household and allows them to have a greater role in decision-making. This, in turn, affects the nutrition and education of their children, especially their daughters.
Gender equality can make substantial contributions to a country’s economic growth and is crucial to food security. A cross-country study of developing countries from 1970 to 1995 found that a 43% reduction of hunger was attributable to progress in women’s education. Countries that are ranked the highest on the index of global hunger are also sites where gender inequalities are more acute.
A study by the International Food Policy Institute found a direct correlation between a woman’s status and power in her household and the nutrition of her children. Equalizing men’s and women’s status in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa would reduce the number of malnourished children by 13.4 million and 1.7 million, respectively.
Other reports have underscored the link between gender equality and increased economic development. The World Bank’s 2012 report on gender equality found that greater equality can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative.
As it becomes increasingly clear that gender equality is indispensable for sustainable food security and developmental outcomes, prioritizing women’s empowerment and gender equity is more important than ever. Promoting gender equality is not only smart economics — it’s a human right.