The best International Women’s Day gift? Resources and rightsMarch 5th, 2012 | by Sarah Kalloch
The truth is that in the villages women work very hard. At times they work for 12 to 14 hours a day. They even work on Sundays and public holidays. Women who live in the villages work harder than anybody else…
-Former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere
March 8 marks the 101st International Women’s Day (IWD). IWD is not a typical Hallmark moment in the US (though you can honor a special woman in your life with an Oxfam E-card). But in many countries, it is a national holiday. And in China, Nepal, and Madagascar, only women get the day off—which is ironic for many women living in poverty, for whom there is no such thing as a day off.
When many Americans picture a farmer, they see a man, possibly in overalls, frequently on a tractor, often in Iowa (I’ve asked a lot of audiences this question—that is what I always get in response). But the truth is that every day, holiday or not, women work hard to feed their families—and the world. In sub-Saharan African countries, women constitute 75% of the agricultural workers. Across all developing countries, the average is 43%.
Women can help set a table for 9 billion people by 2050, but they need two things: resources and rights. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, if women had access to the same resources as men, they could potentially feed 100-150 million more people. If women’s rights to land, education and other key inputs were respected, they could set a bountiful table. So if you want to honor women on IWD, the real gift is equal access to rights and resources.
On March 8, over 75 women leaders from the US and around the world will convene in Washington for Oxfam’s International Women’s Day Summit. These amazing women—leaders from the business, non-profit, political, faith, military, and philanthropic sectors—will walk the halls of Capitol Hill, urging the US government to help women access the resources and rights they need to feed the world. Oxfam will focus on two policy innovations that will help women farmers build their capacity and access markets while increasing global food security:
Support Feed the Future: President Obama’s 2013 budget includes $1.2 billion for Feed the Future, a program that invests in farmers—especially women—to improve agricultural productivity, build resilience to climate change, expand markets and trade, and increase economic resilience in vulnerable rural communities.
Reform Food Aid: As Farm Bill hearings start in DC, Oxfam is advocating to increase regional and local purchase of food aid and end give-aways to commodity and shipping interests that come at the expense of women and communities worldwide. These reforms can cut costs, save more lives, and ensure our aid helps build self-reliance and enable local farmers—inducing women—to thrive.
So this IWD, let’s forget roses and start a new tradition that gives women what they really deserve: a level playing field and the rights and resources they need to set the table not just for their families, but for the world.