This week I am at FAO in Rome, the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, in the heart of Rome, a chaotic but lively and wonderful city, with many historical and cultural surprises and people willing to guide you through the mysteries and secrets of the eternal city. Apart from walking around the Imperial Forums, the Coliseum, Fontana di Trevi and meeting some Brazilian friends for dinner, which is actually a sign of the interconnectedness and the shared humanity of a digital global world (@facebook , @twitter @skype are some answers) , I got the chance to be in an inspiring place where you can actually breathe knowledge and engagement for social-economic and human causes, namely poverty eradication and food access ( or accessibility) to all.
Nutrition is a big part of the discourse. Today Patricia Colbert ( watch her interview during the event I was part of , the UN model United Nations -- organized by WFUNA and SIOI) Senior Gender Adviser to the Global Food security cluster at WFP/FAO, gave an incredible lecture on the link between human rights, gender equality and food security, stressing the importance of gender analysis to actually understand how women and men treat one another depending on the socio-economic and cultural context they live into. "Eliminating assumptions on the things we think we know is the first step to understanding how people really live" she said. The most interesting part she highlighted (which enlightened me) was about the need of embracing diversity as a key component of our societies, by celebrating it ( and not using it as a means to incite violence and as a source of enrichment and "human growth").
Empowerment is another key word she used. Empowerment means trying to give access and opportunities to everyone everywhere in the world, so that people can make better and more informed choices and decisions. This empowerment has to be sustainable, and only Education can provide people with tools and training to be better citizens of the world, and transmit the knowledge they acquire to the future generations.
In November the second international conference on Nutrition is taking place in Rome, along with Milan Expo 2015 coming up next May, common themes: Feeding the planet, Energy for life, discussing environment, food waste, sustainability, how to feed the world in 2050 and how food can be better produced, distributed and be the solution to world sustainability and food safety, preventing illnesses related to nutrition. The links between agriculture, environmental issues, food and nature will be explored in depth by scientists, researchers, and will be an opportunity for the citizens to get to know more about the themes, and an opportunity for governments and business men to meet and share virtuous practices and knowledge.
Here Women will be playing a tremendous role and will be having a voice in shaping the talks on development and cooperation for their full participation into public life, getting the chance to present women projects on nutritious food, education and active participation in society to promote world peace.
An example of exciting public life engagement is Hillary Clinton ( here her campaign website) now, who I hope will be running for President in the next Presidential campaign. She is the pure representation of grit, determination, perseverance, passion and commitment to the American dream, solving people' problems and making them live their personal dreams. She has the guts to keep going. First, she supported President Barack Obama, then she was appointed Secretary of State, and now she is running for a better America and a better future for all, both in foreign policy and at home.
As her, millions of other women can be empowered and, by having full rights ( as Ms. Clinton stated in the United Nations conference on Women in 1995, women's rights are equal rights, watch the video of her speech in Beijing ) can make a turn in their societies, in economic, social and cultural terms. They are the creators of life on Earth, they give birth and take care of their children, and can advance their development through education ( watch here the video I presented during my bachelor thesis on poverty eradication, thank you Girl Effect) , they can be active workers in the agricultural and rural areas in developing countries, encouraging production and distribution of safe food able to feed children and to grow healthy and strong to face tough obstacles in life.
I leave you with an interesting project I got to know at FAO on women and men in agriculture, and how to close the gender gap. According to the FAO report on gender, women represent 43 percent ( ranging from 20 percent in Latin America, to 50 percent in Eastern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa) of the agricultural labor force in developing countries . However, although evidence shows that female farmers are just as efficient as their male counterparts, they have less land and use fewer inputs, so they produce less. The potential gains that could be achieved by closing the gender gap in input use are estimated in terms of agricultural yields, agricultural production, food security and broader aspects of economic and social welfare.
To conclude and get back to the meaning of this article's title, a clear synergy exists between gender-equality and hunger reduction goals. If women had the same access to productive resources ( livestock, land, labor, education, financial services and technology) they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 percent , which could, in turn, reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent.
Policy interventions at national and international level ( and here comes FAO, the World Food programme..) can help close the gender gap in agriculture and rural labor markets. By eliminating discrimination against women and by ensuring the respect of human rights, a full participation of women in both private and public life can be effective and can be truly meaningful to shape world politics ( like Hillary Clinton is doing) and to shape nutrition, lifestyles and families in the Post 2015 Millennium Development agenda ( here's the new report)
Be healthy and stay healthy, Cook nutritious food and save lives.