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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder3. Sustaining and enhancing lives
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentHunger constrains human development
View the documentThe key role of women in food security

The key role of women in food security

Resources for women are resources for food security
3.5 Women are a key part of the solution to hunger (Quisumbing et al. 1995). They shoulder a major share of the responsibilities for household food security, and experience has shown that resources in the hands of women often have a greater nutritional benefit to children than the same resources controlled by men. They are more likely than men to spend a given income on food for the family (Pena, Webb and Haddad 1994). Thus, resources for women represent resources for food security. Successful development for women does not stop at the individual-it benefits whole households and communities. Reducing gender disparities by enhancing the human and physical resources commanded by women leads to growth in household agricultural productivity, greater income and better food and nutrition security for all (Quisumbing et al. 1995).
3.6 What is more, educating mothers is especially important to reducing child mortality (Mosley and Cowley 1991). Educated women are more likely to have the status and power in a household to ensure prenatal care, delivery care, childhood immunizations, better diets for children and even better housing. Educated mothers are also more likely to be an effective agent of social change, encouraging their own girls to attend school and playing a crucial role in community development as a whole.
Food aid can reach women better than capital flows
3.7 Food aid, as one of several resources supporting change among hungry households, often reaches hungry women better than the capital flows that make up close to 95 percent of total development assistance. Food aid provided as wages or as incentives to participate in income earning or training can reach women in food insecure households which are often 'crowded out' of projects offering cash. Likewise, lower status food offered in full or part remuneration for project activities attracts the most needy members of a community. Experience shows that wealthier households tend to participate less in food-for-work, and food wages typically result in a larger share of the wage being consumed as food than when cash is offered (Ahmed 1994; Webb 1995). Moreover, food wages are inflation-proof when markets are unstable or shortages bring major price increases. In short, the self-targeting potential of food aid makes it well suited to expanded use as a kind of 'resource window' for women and others among the very poor.