• The working group on Women and Gender Diversities of the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism (CSIPM) has issued a statement in which it calls for member states of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS) to pursue agreement on pioneering guidelines on gender equality in the context of food security and nutrition.   
  • The statement demands a comprehensive and inclusive CFS Voluntary Guidelines process with support from specialists in a wide range of intersecting issues that prevent the realisation of the right to food. 

24 November 2022, Rome, Italy.  Globally, the prevalence of food insecurity is higher among women than men. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recently warned that almost 32 percent of women in the world were moderately or severely food insecure, compared to 27.6 percent of men in 2021. One of the most important causes of this growing gap is related to Sexual and Gender- Based Violence (SGBV). 

“We have demonstrated how violence is still part of our everyday lives. We have shown how it intersects with other forms of oppression, preventing us from accessing natural resources, producing, and accessing food in dignity”, expresses the statement released by the CSIPM Women and Gender Diversities Working Group (WGD WG)

Gender Based Violence (GVB) has severe and negative consequences for victims, survivors and their families and communities, and has a devastating impact on agricultural productivity, food security and nutrition (FAO, 2017).  Violence can manifest in physical, sexual and psychological forms. Glorene Das, co-coordinator of the Working Group, and the Asian Women Rural Coalition, recently described an emerging form of abuse which sees women being deprived of food in the workplace, followed by forced confinement, non-payment of wages and excessively long working hours.

Like the case of Suri, which is not the real name of an Indonesian domestic worker, who was rescued and hospitalized last year for severe weight loss. She was fed by her employer only with instant noodles three times a day, and sometimes she received rice and bread, or no food at all. According to Glorene, worldwide there are at least 67 million domestic workers, and many of them are in the same situation. 

The negative impacts of GBV lead to increased poverty, thus creating a self-reinforcing cycle of underdevelopment, poverty and violence (UNGA, 2006). Furthermore, because it mostly affects women and girls in the productive ages (15-45), GBV perpetuates gender inequality, thus further stalling progress in poverty reduction (FAO, 2017). 

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the formulation of new laws and strategies for the realisation of women’s and LGBTQI+ human rights and, in some cases, reversed many of the hard-won gains of the past decades. As the testimony received through the CSIPM regional consultations  by Leonida Odongo, from Kenya. Haki Nawiri and CSIPM women and gender diversities working group:

“The rising cases of gender-based violence was also recorded, particularly on women and girls. For girls this resulted into teenage pregnancies, some of these children are yet to go back to school, others have been married off, especially those who got impregnated by relatives (incest is a taboo in most African communities). ​​Closure of markets enhanced dependency of women on men within households, markets were sources of income for women engaged in petty trading. Markets were closed. With the closure of physical courts and a shift to virtual courts, many people could not access justice due to adjournments, women had to stay in the same households with their abusers making them more vulnerable.” 

The World Health Organisation has found that on average one in three women globally will experience intimate partner violence or sexual violence in their lifetime. The same study found that in some crisis settings, GBV affects over 70 percent of women (WHO, 2013). It is high time for ambitious global guidelines and legal frameworks that can effectively end violence, discrimination, and all forms of injustice against women, girls, and non-heteronormative persons, in the context of food and nutrition security, as well as in the context of conflicts and military occupation of territories.

“Those who live in occupation face a diverse number of problems, like forced displacement, which enable them to have a source of income, and is always women who face the biggest difficulties, for example, in Palestine they can not access agricultural lands.”, expressed Souad Mahmoud, from the World March of Women. 

This year, the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), provided an excellent opportunity to develop such a pioneering and politically long-sighted policy instrument. Being the foremost inclusive multilateral space to tackle food and nutrition insecurity. It is the only body that prioritises a human rights approach and includes a mechanism – the CSIPM – to facilitate the participation of those most affected by hunger. Throughout 2022, negotiations and debates took place at the CFS with a view to develop and endorse the Voluntary Guidelines on Gender Equality and Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment (GEWGE). However, the process was blocked by a coalition of countries during the third round of negotiations, hindering its official endorsement. The endorsement will likely take place in October 2023, at the CFS’ 51st Plenary session. 

Past experiences demonstrate that guidelines and policy instruments like these can provide governments with best practices, lessons learned and vetted approaches for regional, national and local policies. 

“It is our belief that a true commitment to gender equality does not avoid divergent positions, but rather promotes discussion on the issues at hand, and considers available evidence. The CFS needs to understand and address them in full. This is the prerequisite for the CSIPM to continue the policy convergence process,” says the CSIPM Women and Gender Diversities Working Group through an official statement which so far has gathered signatures from more than 450 organisations and individuals worldwide. One way to continue the policy formulation process in an inclusive manner would entail that the CFS organises special thematic sessions in which experts present evidence to inform debates and next steps.

On 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Working Group calls on the CFS and all its participating member states and actors to step up their commitment by pursuing agreement on a set of voluntary guidelines that truly tackle the structural injustice and historical power asymmetry that prevent women, girls and non-heteronormative persons from realising their human rights, within and beyond food systems.

Read and sign the statement here 

Relevant links: 

Resources

  1. How can food security interventions contribute to reducing gender-based violence?, Issue Brief, FAO: https://www.fao.org/3/i7768e/i7768e.pdf 
  2. Gender-based violence & food insecurity: What we know and why gender equality is the answer. CARE. https://www.care.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/GBV-food-security-brief_EN.pdf
  3. FAO SOFI Report 2022. https://www.fao.org/3/cc0639en/cc0639en.pdf
  4. UNGA. 2006. In-depth study on all forms of violence against women, Report of the Secretary General. UN doc. A/61/122.Add.1 of 6 July 2006. 
  5. World Health Organisation (WHO). 2013. Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. Available at: http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/ violence/9789241564625/en/

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