By Aisha Siddiqa Hassim, age 13
Agriculture is arguably the most important of our industries, and maintaining and improving our food systems is high on the global priority list. International organizations like the United Nations are now beginning to acknowledge the link between gender equity, sustainability and global food security. A UN Women report in 2022 found that giving women the same opportunities as men within the agricultural industry could reduce the number of malnourished people by up to 17%.
Women are a large majority of the agricultural workforce around the world and provide a lot of the productivity and innovation we see in agriculture, yet they are largely not taken seriously or given positions of power within the industry. About 64% of women working in agriculture are low-income. They are also denied the right to make decisions, as less than 20% of women in the global industry are landowners, with less than 5% in North Africa, despite them making up almost 80% of the labor force.
Currently, just 1% to 3% of global financing goes to women-led organizations that push climate adaptation, like regenerative agriculture. At COP27 in Egypt last November, UN Women called for women to have a much larger share of financing and a larger voice in discussions. The Accelerating Progress Towards the Economic Empowerment of Rural Women initiative is a U.N.-run food security program which has seen up to 80% increases in agricultural productivity in the countries where it operates, according to Jemimah Njuki, chief of economic empowerment at UN Women. Results like this prove that when money is invested in women farmers fighting climate change, they thrive.
Slowly, change is happening, and women around the world are being recognized for their pursuits. In Zimbabwe, Forget Shareka founded Chashi Foods, a socially minded and environmentally responsible business that focuses on post-harvesting processes. She explained to Global Citizen that many African rural communities lose a lot of their harvest because of a lack of cold storage facilities and an excess of crops. Not only does this cause food waste, it is also bad for the environment as crops emit methane when they decompose. Shareka is also a part of a program which helps to educate farmers. Ultimately, empowering women is a crucial ingredient in the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. “If a woman is gaining ground in education,” said Shareka, “she is also gaining ground in fighting climate change, and gaining ground in fighting gender inequality.”