Women constitute half of our global population, and the timing is crucial for us to invest in women as agents of change.
The link between natural resource depletion, gender inequality, conflict and peace building can no longer be ignored. It is a lack of access to natural resources that ultimately leads to the destabilization of peaceful societies. Research has shown that when women gain greater control of income and assets, their families, communities and the land all benefit, leading to widespread global improvements.
Nurturing the land and communities
Healthy land equals healthy people. I have been a long time fan of Holistic Management. The results of this practice around the world are tremendous. Imagine the global impact if this training were focused on women. Women are nurturers. When they earn a steady income, 80% of their earnings are spent on the health, nutrition and housing for their families. Add into this equation their ability to heal the land and improve conditions for their community and surrounding communities and we begin to change the shape of our future.
Recent UN Women research shows that resources controlled by women are more likely to be used to improve family food consumption and welfare, reduce child malnutrition and increase the overall well-being of families. Empowered women keep their children in school, breaking the cycle of poverty and oppression that still affects so many.
Giving women equal access
Specifically speaking of the agricultural workforce: women represent 43% of the agriculture labor force in developing countries and over 50% in sub-Saharan Africa. They also comprise about 2/3 of the livestock-keepers worldwide. Even with these great numbers, women lack access to the same opportunities afforded to their fathers, brothers and husbands. Cultural norms, policy and a lack of education are blocking the path to more productive land, healthier water cycles and thriving communities.
Studies by the FAO have shown that giving women the same access to assets and credit as men could help increase yields on the land, already in agricultural production, by 20-30%, feeding an additional 150 million people.
Policy can create the necessary change
International Women’s Day, on March 8th, highlights the importance of celebrating gender equality around the globe. This is an incredible opportunity for us all to create a ripple effect that brings lasting change.
Policy is an important component in creating this change. Equally important is education and awareness. One person can make a difference. I invite you to join me on March 8th in sharing stories of hope and empowerment of women in agriculture from around the world. Capitalizing on our ability to lead with where we want to go, we can build a world that embraces women and opens doors for them as change agents for global communities and the environment.Laurie Benson is the founder of 1% For Women, which promotes businesses that commit 1% of their net profit to microcredit loans for women in agriculture around the world, actively changing the cycles of poverty and oppression that still affect so many. Laurie believes that the empowerment of women is a crucial component to changing worldwide economic, environmental and social degradation.