Women’s day: not a day, but an ongoing struggle

The half of the world’s population that women make up still suffer appalling discrimination in rural and urban areas, thereby leading them to suffer disproportionately from hunger and malnutrition and keeping the world unbalanced.

As right-holders of all internationally recognized human rights, women are entitled to equal remuneration for work of equal value, land tenure, sexual and reproductive health, as well as to education, social security and political participation. Emphasizing the interdependence of human rights, if discrimination exists against any of their political and civil, as well as economic, social or cultural rights, a life of imbalance impedes the realization of their rights, including their right to feed themselves.

Still in 2017, women are restricted from obtaining a decent income from employment or self-employment and are thus left without a possibility to secure their access to adequate and nutritious food. Women and girls suffer disproportionately from malnutrition and still have restricted access to the means for its procurement. In practice, this leads to an unfortunate scenario where women account for 70% of the world’s hungry and are at greatest risk to suffer in times of food price volatility.

Key players in food production but owning only 2% of the land
As echoed by ‘Women’s Rights: The Right to Feed Off Equality’, the participation of women across the entire spectrum of food production cannot be overlooked. Women cultivate, plough and harvest more than 50% of the world’s food. Significantly, they contribute to the reproduction of labor in the food sector through their participation in pre-harvest and post-harvest activities, preservation and transferring of traditional knowledge in their communities, and by bearing the responsibility of caregiving in both rural and urban areas. Paradoxically, women own less than 2% of the land worldwide in rural areas and are also likely to be excluded from decision-making and leadership positions in relation to management and control over natural resources, crucial for food production.

This leads us to the conclusion that laws and policies fail to acknowledge women as food producers and disregard the specific challenges a woman faces when seeking access to food and nutrition on a regular basis throughout her lifespan. This comes as a result of the allocation of a submissive and secondary role to women throughout history, which has often led to the obliteration of their particular realities and disregard of their condition in society.

Systematic mobilisation urgently needed
International Women’s Day must not be approached as a day of punctual celebration or criticism, but an occasion for the further reflection of an ongoing struggle. In times of political turmoil, where not only does further progress of women’s rights seem questionable, but the advances made are on the line, people’s mobilization is urgently needed.

Any endeavour that aims to push humanity into a more just social order, should necessarily take into account the different types of relations women hold with others and their environment; address their status in the public and private domains of society; and the fundamental rights that seek their protection. Without taking these steps, progress is unlikely.

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Photo: Women at a demonstration (India), Tom Henning Bratlie

Video: Dutch delegation at Nyéléni Europe 2016