Going all the way: gender-just food security

Children in Cité Soleil (Haiti) receive meals Photographer: UN Photo/Marco Dormino via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) From the BRIDGE report.

Children in Cité Soleil (Haiti) receive meals
Photographer: UN Photo/Marco Dormino via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) From the BRIDGE report.

Food security is often presented as a gender-neutral problem, but unequal access to food affects women and girls disproportionately and so gender-sensitive solutions are needed. The UK-based BRIDGE gender and development initiative has just released a policy brief and report on gender, food security and nutrition exploring the evidence and providing a new vision of gender-justice with implementing principles. The Gender and Food Security: towards gender-just food and nutrition security draft vision is comprehensive, bringing together elements where their analysis indicates transformation is needed:

Gender-just food and nutrition security means a world without hunger, where women, men, girls and boys have equal access to nutritious, healthy food, and access to the means to produce, sell and purchase food. It is a world where the right to food for all is realised. Importantly it is a world free of gender-based violence, where the roles, responsibilities, opportunities and choices available to women and men – including unpaid caregiving and food provision – are not predetermined at birth but can, where possible, be developed in line with individual capacities and aspirations. Finally, it is a world where countries are equipped to produce enough food for their own populations through environmentally sound processes, while also being able to participate in (gender-) equitable global and regional food trading systems.

In short, the recommended five core principles are:

  1.  A commitment to rights, including the right to adequate food for all
  2. People-centred solutions, giving voice to the women and men who are producing and consuming food.
  3. Gender-transformative solutions, promoting gender justice and women’s empowerment and the transformation of unequal gender power relations, as a route to food and nutrition security and as goals in their own right.
  4. Supporting gender-equitable trade and investment policies that promote the local sustainable production of culturally appropriate food.
  5. Ecologically sustainable solutions that respect local knowledge and rights, moving beyond market-based solutions

The report’s recommendations for translating these principles into practice, paraphrased, are:

  • Strategies and instruments for protecting, recognising and realising rights: Formal legislation provides a vital mechanism for claiming rights to food and resources such as land, but to put these laws into practice, all people – especially women – must be informed about their rights and how to claim them.
  • Gender-aware programming that goes beyond ‘instrumentalising’ women: Move towards more comprehensive, contextualised gender analyses that revolve around understandings of power relations and socio-cultural dynamics, to facilitate the subtle shift in thinking and action. Address the invisible issues of women’s unpaid care work and gender-based violence.
  • Recognise and evaluate the multiple dimensions of women’s empowerment in food security programming: Develop appropriate indicators of empowerment that are more able to capture the quality of women’s lives, including the material, social, cultural and human dimensions.
  • Engage men and boys in promoting gender-just food security: There is a transformative potential of engaging men and boys towards both understanding and challenging gender norms around food and also changing norms and behaviours that may result in violence or prevent men from sharing care responsibilities.
  • Support women’s collective action as a lever of change: Creating and supporting women-only groups of producers can provide a means to strengthen women’s bargaining power in both producing and selling goods, and strengthen women’s empowerment more broadly.
  • Invest in gender-aware agro-ecological approaches as an important means to prioritise women’s existing knowledge and to promote increases in yield with low input and at no cost to the environment.
  • Access to information and appropriate technologies for ensuring improved nutrition outcomes within households and for empowering women through knowledge and tools.
  • More coherent, well-funded gender-aware policies, processes and institutions: Move beyond policy silos towards more connected, multisectoral approaches to ensure that positive, equitable actions in one policy area are not undermined by inequalities created by another. Gender-responsive budgeting.
  • Gender-just governance of food and nutrition security solutions: Address the unacceptable gender imbalance in decision-making around food and nutrition security in policy spaces through targeted strategies that include challenging the ‘deep structures’ of organisations that perpetuate exclusionary practices.

The report and the accompanying policy brief can be downloaded.

Although the BRIDGE report only lightly touches on fisheries and aquaculture, more on the links to gender and food security in the fish sectors can be found in the recent report on fish, food security and nutrition published by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition. See the HLPE report.

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