In 2011, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations published “Women- Key to Food Security,” which addressed the marginalization of women in the rural and farming work forces of third world, developing and impoverished nations. According to FAO, if women had the same access to agricultural resources as men, 20-30 percent more food would be produced and the quality of nutrition education and health would rise in these countries.
Statistically, women make up nearly half of the world’s farming community–coming in at 43 percent. In some developing countries, the percentage is much higher–with the agricultural labor force being more than 60 percent women. In research conducted by FAO, it was found that women farmers are 20-30 percent less productive than men, but not because of work output. FAO stated that the “main reason for the gap between men’s and women’s performance is that the former have access to resources seldom available to female farmers – including land, financing and technology, among other things. In addition, women do not share fairly in benefits such as training, information and knowledge.”
FAO also made strong arguments when stating:
“Today, if men and women had equal access to productive resources in agriculture, food output in developing countries would increase by between 2.5 and four percent – enough to pull 100-150 million people out of hunger and help achieve Millennium Development Goal One on hunger and poverty reduction. Tomorrow, it would make it possible to feed a larger world.
But in many countries, existing and historically based cultural discrimination against women means that they have less right than men to own or hold land or to make decisions about their lives.
In a number of countries in North Africa and West Asia, for example, women account for fewer than five percent of landholders. And even in the region where their access to farmland is greatest, Latin America, only 25 percent of those holding land are women.”
However, I want to raise the question of gender roles and socioeconomic norms here. Similarly in the situation with micro-financing.
According to IFAD’s website one of the goals, and in turn, effects of women in developing countries’ responsibility of managing loans and savings is empowerment and an elevation in status. To quote: “The ability to generate and control their own income can further empower poor women.”
In a western culture that has emphasized gender equality for many generations, these consequences of microfinance seem to be a very postive and natural course for MDGs of the western persuasion to encourage.
However, if we extend a Moyo-esque point of view, could this western idea of positive influence actually be doing more harm for the culture of the developing countries than good? Is this assumption that women should be empowered through micro financing an assumption that has led developing nations to not help themselves by making their own choices regarding their economy, social norms and gender roles?