Hungry for Justice: Food Security and Violence Against Women

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World Food Day—October 16th—falls right in the middle of Domestic Violence Awareness month. At first the connection between the two might seem tenuous. But as Oxfam’s GROW Campaign eloquently argues, “Hunger isn’t about too many people and too little food. Hunger is about inequality. And women and girls face the greatest inequalities of all”. When women are hungry, they are forced to make impossible choices and take untenable chances that make them vulnerable to violence.

Women grow the majority of the world’s food—and are also the majority of the world’s hungry because of vast inequalities in resources and power. Women farmers in the US still face a “grass ceiling”—denied access to billions in loans from the USDA.  And the situation is worse in developing countries, where women face discrimination in land ownership, lack of education, and little access to the capital, technology, and markets needed to make a living on the land. Women could feed up to 150 million more people if they had the same agricultural resources as men, according to a United Nations report.

But before women feed the world, they must feed themselves and their families—a simple act which exposes them up to violence, rape and abuse.

  • In Bangladesh, women in households with lower food security are more at risk for physical and emotional abuse.
  • Women in Bostwana who did not have enough to eat were twice as likely to have sold sex and were more likely to report a lack of control in sexual relationships.
  • Women displaced by conflict in Darfur face further violence when they go to gather firewood and water.
  • When food rations were cut at refugee camps in Tanzania in 2005, the World Food Program warned of an increased violence against women as women ventured further afield to feed their families and tensions rose in hungry households.
  • Women from Canada to the Congo who have left abusive relationship or been victims of violence are often left economically vulnerable and food insecure.

This month, join Oxfam’s GROW Campaign and hold a WFD dinner with friends and family. Take time to talk about the amazing culture, community and power of food. Food security is human security. Women feed the world—they deserve the chance to feed their families free of violence.

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