Hunger among women is a gross violation of their rights. On Women’s Day, FIAN Philippines calls for the realization of women’s right to adequate food
Quezon City, March 8, 2013 - Women struggle daily to feed their families. Yet they are the most hungry. Realizing their human right to adequate food is not only a matter of gender equality and empowerment, it paves the way out of poverty
Hunger and poverty are the most important challenges that the Philippine government must address. If it wants to solve the problem in a sustainable way, two factors have to be taken into account: Hunger, worldwide as well as in the Philippines, is mainly rural. 80% of the worldwide hungry live in rural areas. Hunger is also female. Women contribute most of their income and time on ensuring the survival of their families. Yet, they are most vulnerable to hunger. International Women’s Day reminds us of the severity of hunger among Filipino women. As a human rights organization advocating for the right to adequate food, FoodFirst Information & Action Network (FIAN) Philippines, has been actively supporting marginalized women from the rural, indigenous and urban poor sectors in claiming their right to adequate food. Hunger among women is not only a question of the lack of food. It is also a question of power relations, of access to resources, of social and economic status, of discrimination, bias in society, and of human rights. The following are only a few reasons why hunger among women in the Philippines persists: The gender-dimension of hunger is mostly ignored Hunger among women persists because they are invisible in the national statistics. According to the Social Weather Stations, 3.3 million families, or 16.5 million individuals, have experienced hunger in the fourth quarter of 2012. The figures do not show that half of the number of family members is women and girls. Women’s reproductive roles are not recognized Reproductive roles, household and community tasks are not recognized and understood in the same way as productive, “hard” work done by men. While reproductive roles are unpaid and undervalued, women’s effort and time invested in the care of their families are completely ignored. Women spend an average of 11 hours per day in productive and reproductive work, in coastal areas even up to 16 hours.
Invisibility of women’s productive work Women’s role in food production is “invisible”. In developing countries women contribute significantly to food production. They are responsible for 55% of food growth and comprise 67% of agricultural labor. Investing in rural women therefore means investing in food security and rural development, as is acknowledged by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In national statistics, however, only 25% of the agricultural workers are women. Food production and economic productivity in general is commonly measured in terms of economic benefits, farm output, fish catch and contribution to the GDP. Other work that ensures food production, such as fetching water, providing fuel, looking for capital, supplying food for workers, preparation of fisher nets or sorting fish catch, is not considered within the value chain. Unfortunately these are tasks mainly performed by women. Discrimination Gender-related income gaps still persist. Women receive lower pay than men, even for equal work. Women also experience discrimination in access to work. Women’s sacrifices for their families More mothers than children experience food insecurity. According to the 6th National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute in 2003, 33.7% of mothers experience food insecurity. In times of food scarcity or lack of money, they skip meals or do not eat for the whole day. Women often sacrifice for the other members of the family, especially their children, when there is not enough food. The children and the husbands eat first, women eat what is left or do not eat at all. Lack of access to rights Women have rights and the Philippine state is obliged to protect, respect and fulfil them. The Philippines is signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Discrimination against women, including discrimination in access to food and resources, violates the principles of equality of rights. It is also an obstacle to the participation of women, on equal terms with men, in the political, social, economic and cultural life. Discrimination hampers the growth of the prosperity of society and the family. It not only results in lost opportunities for women themselves, but also for the development of countries. The Philippines recognizes the right to adequate food of women in the Magna Carta of Women (MCW or RA9710). In Section 20, Food Security and Productive Resources, the State recognizes the contribution of women to food production. According to the MCW, the State shall guarantee, at all times, the availability of safe and health-giving food especially to satisfy the dietary needs of marginalized women and girls.
Implementing the women’s right to food The State is urgently called to comply with its obligations and to fulfil the right to adequate food of Filipino women, especially in the marginalized sectors. There is still a lack of awareness on gender equality and gender equity within legislation and society. FIAN Philippines urges the State not only to recognize women’s rights during International Women’s Day, but to guarantee women’s rights at all times. There is an urgent need to:
Implement the Magna Carta of Women Strengthen the legal framework to the right to adequate food and gender equality Guarantee equal access to rights and resources Increase women’s participation in policy and decision making bodies Mainstream gender equality and gender equity as a matter of human rights, especially the right to adequate food. ###