Belfast Telegraph

Women hit harder by poverty in as global food prices soar

Women in developing countries have been hit harder by poverty as a perfect storm of rising food prices and climate change-induced drought has pushed people deeper into poverty, participants at a public forum on women’s rights in Belfast will hear today.

Prices of basic food stuffs in many developing countries have risen by over 100 per cent since 2008, pushing families who spend 80 per cent of their incomes on food deeper into poverty. But because women represent 70 percent of the world's poor, the higher cost of basic staples such as rice and corn is having a disproportionate impact on them.

Meanwhile, drought is hitting parts of east and west Africa every two years instead of ten a decade ago, destroying the coping capacities of women who are primarily responsible for farming in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The disproportionate impact of poverty on women and girls is no accident”, said Jim Clarken, Chief Executive of Oxfam Ireland.

“It is the result of discrimination, or the denial of women’s basic human rights, rooted in the historical subordination of women in societies and cultures around the globe. Gender inequality remains the most pervasive and fundamental obstacle to the eradication of poverty and a guarantee of human rights for all.”

Women work two thirds of the world’s working hours, yet only earn 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of its property.

Oxfam Ireland is asking the British and Irish governments to commit to spending a greater share of the existing aid budget on programmes that target women and poverty.

According to Mr Clarken, equality between men and women would boost annual growth in Africa by 0.5 per cent.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa it is predicted that economic growth rates will average 1.6 percent per year from 2006-2015. Gender equality could increase average annual growth rates to 2.1 percent, meaning that the number of years it will take for per capita incomes to double will be reduced by a full decade from 43 years to 33 years.”

If women farmers had the same access to land, seeds and tools as men, they could grow enough extra food to feed more than 100 million of the world’s hungriest people.

“The British and Irish governments have, for many years, supported initiatives that advance gender equality in the developing world and progress has been made in many areas,” said Mr Clarken. “But some outstanding challenges remain in meeting commitments to gender equality and women’s human rights and we’d like the governments to address those.

“The forthcoming Irish Presidency of the EU and Britain chairing the G8 in 2013 means there is a real opportunity for gender equality and violence against women to be prioritised in a new development framework, including comprehensive targets and indicators on gender equality and violence against women in EU and G8 discussions,” Mr Clarken said.

The public event will bring together politicians, supporters, campaigners and representatives from the women's sector and international development agencies.

For more information about Oxfam Ireland’s Ending Poverty Starts With Women campaign and the public forum, visit www.oxfamireland.org/women

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