We Can End the Food Crisis
Women, the Group Most Affected, Could Have the Answer
Over the past year, global food prices have soared, making even the most basic foods--such as rice and corn--too expensive for the world's poor. The result? Millions of families are enduring extreme hunger or starvation. As is all too often the case in times of crisis, women and children are suffering the most.
Why Do Food Prices Matter So Much?While many people in countries like the United States may not notice them, spikes in food prices can plunge households in developing countries even further into poverty. This is because they spend an average of 70 percent of their incomes on food, compared to the 15 to 18 percent that households in industrialized countries spend. Over the past nine months world food prices have increased by an astounding 55 percent. The cost of corn alone rose 87 percent in March. These are more than just statistics. The increase has had dramatic consequences for the billion people worldwide who live on less than 1 dollar a day: for many Central American families, for instance, the already meager breakfast of a corn tortilla is no longer an option.
Even before the food crisis hit, the majority of the world's hungry--7 out of 10--were women and girls. Now they are at risk of becoming permanently malnourished, creating irreversible health problems for the next generation.
Why Are Women More Affected? Women make up the majority of the working poor, farmers, and informal sector workers. This means they do not have the benefits or formal protections often provided by governments and employers. Compounding this problem is the fact that in many cultures women and girls eat the last and the least.
In Malawi girls are being forced to drop out of school to help feed their families. Out of desperation, some parents are even reported to be forcing their daughters into marriage in exchange for food. It is in these emergency situations that the futures of women and girls--who have the potential to lift so many around them out of poverty--are permanently threatened.
Women Can End the Food CrisisInvesting in women is key to solving the food crisis. Rural women alone produce half of the world's food and 60 percent to 80 percent of the food in most poor countries. In spite of this, they receive less than 10 percent of credit provided to farmers! In some places, if women had the same access as men to land, seed, and fertilizer, agricultural productivity could increase by up to 20 percent. Furthermore, decades of research and experience have shown that when women have extra income, they reinvest in their children's health and education, creating a positive cycle of growth for the entire family. Economic opportunity for women means their children are more likely to eat, eat nutritiously, and eat regularly.
What We Can Do:The GROWTH Act The Global Resources and Opportunities for Women To Thrive (GROWTH) Act fights poverty by investing in those who are most affected by it and most likely to end it - women and girls. Now more than ever, it is critical to give women in developing countries the tools they need to lift their families out of poverty. Passing the GROWTH Act is a concrete step the U.S. can take to do this.
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