Blog by Britta Wyss-Bisang, Standards Director at UTZ Certified.
We’ve all heard the phrase “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” but as we celebrate International Women’s Day this weekend we ask – what about the women?
International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over 100 years, having its roots in the labor movement of the early 20th Century. It has become something of a tradition for public figures and celebrities to mark the occasion, via speeches or social media posts, and this year, we can expect celebrations on a massive scale. Hundreds of events will take place all over the world. And you know an occasion has really made it into the public consciousness when it gets its own ‘google doodle’.
Since International Women’s Day was first celebrated much has changed for women, yet, as we are all too aware, there is a long way to go. From people trafficking, child marriage and FGM, to pay equality and political representation: there are still many serious challenges to be overcome.
But one area that doesn’t tend to make the headlines is women in agriculture.
There are at least 560 million female farmers and farm workers in the world, and women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. These women face their own set of challenges.
On average, male farmers produce around 20 to 30 percent more than female farmers. There are several reasons for this. Access to credit, and therefore to inputs like fertilizer, is significantly lower for women. Female farmers tend to have lower levels of education than their male counterparts. One of the most important obstacles to equality is land tenure, as in many countries only a tiny proportion of landholders are women.
Laura Turquet from UN Women, the UN organization dedicated to gender equality, sums it up when she says “in recent years, rising and volatile global food prices, as well as large-scale dispossession of agricultural land, have combined to produce adverse outcomes for poor and marginalized farmers, especially women, these women face particular issues when it comes to securing land rights, and gaining access to agricultural inputs services and markets”
Many of these are structural problems that require joint efforts from the world’s governments, corporations and civil society, as well as major attitude shifts in society as a whole. But there are things that can be done.
At UTZ Certified, there are three sides to our approach: we aim to increase the number of women included in our program, to improve their access to benefits, and to reduce the discrimination and violence that women can be subject to on farms and plantations.
At UTZ, we may not be teaching women to fish – but through our program we want to empower female farmers to lift themselves, their families and their communities out of poverty. And as this short film shows – when you empower women you help feed us all for a lifetime!
Graphics: ALVARO VALIÑO for National Geographic.