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Gender and food security

- Refilwe Mabula

Food insecurity for women goes hand-in-hand with economic, political and cultural policies and attitudes.

Food insecurity is an issue of growing global and regional concern, causing intergenerational health problems, compromising educational attainment, productivity and human development.

The recent droughts in South Africa severely affected the agricultural sector. Food insecurity is compounded by global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, rapid urbanisation, energy constraints and water scarcity.

On World Aids Day, the Wits Siyakhana Intiative and the School of Geography, Archeology and Environmental Studies hosted a discussion on the challenges that women face in getting access to food, including challenges with HIV/Aids, where they also shared initial findings into their research.

The event also coincided with the national 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.

Although commonly considered an agricultural problem, a food systems perspective reveals that food insecurity is the result of a very complex interplay of global, regional and local factors operating along food value chains from production through processing, storage, distribution and retail.

In light of environmental, social, economic, political and cultural dimensions that go hand-in-hand with food insecurity, access to food for women is often a challenge.

According to Teresa Dirsuweit, an Associate Professor in the School of Geography at Wits who delivered the keynote address at the event, women tend to be less food insecure than men. One of the many impediments restricting women’s access to food is education and their disempowered position in society.

“Women tend to be less educated and in terms of what people think of women or how they are valued, and they have little or no presence in decision making”.

However, research showed that there was a 55 % improvement in food security as the position of women improved in society, she said.

The event was attended by members of the public, and representatives from Toro Global Consulting who also shared their research findings on rural women, gender equality and economic and social issues affecting food security.

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