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70% of world’s hungry are women, says UN expert on right to food

GENEVA (8 March 2016) – “Women account for 70 per cent of the world's hungry, and are disproportionately affected by malnutrition, yet they are responsible for more than half of global food production,” said the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver.  

“Faced with discrimination on multiple levels, women’s right to access food is affected at all stages of life. Indeed women in many countries receive less food than their male partners, as a result of their lower social status,” said Ms. Elver launching her latest report* to the UN Human Rights Council. “Social segregation based on gender, when combined with other forms of discrimination grounded on religion, race, ethnicity, class and caste, disadvantage women even further,” added the expert.

“Despite their critical contribution to world food and agricultural production, women face difficulties in maintaining household incomes due to increased competition with imported agricultural goods, reduced prices, and declining commodity prices in international market, as well as in engaging in market activities when cultural norms make it socially unacceptable for them to interact with men. Migrant women workers with precarious immigration status and indigenous women are particularly vulnerable,” said the Special Rapporteur.

“Closing the gender gap in agriculture requires the development of gender-sensitive policies. Ensuring land rights, reinforcing the rights of girls and women to education and social protection and increasing women’s participation in decision-making in a meaningful manner are critical”, stressed the independent expert. “Increasing women’s access to and control over assets has been shown to have positive effects on important human development outcomes, including household food security, child nutrition, education and women’s well-being and status within the home and community”, she added.

On International Women’s Day, the Special Rapporteur encourages States to focus on gender-sensitive policies in all fields, particularly in the context of climate change, in order to achieve further improvements in women’s access to their right to food.

“Respecting, protecting and fulfilling women’s rights will inevitably solve broader problems in food systems in general and can help communities achieve improved development outcomes,” concluded Ms. Elver.

(*) Check the Special Rapporteur’s full report: http://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/31/51

Ms. Hilal Elver (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. She is a Research Professor, and global distinguished fellow at the University of California, Law School Resnick Food Law and Policy Center. She has a law degree, a Ph.D. from the University of Ankara Law School, and SJD from the UCLA Law School. She started her teaching career at the University of Ankara Faculty of Law. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and press inquiries, please contact Orlagh McCann (+41 22 917 9578 / omccann@ohchr.org) or write to srfood@ohchr.org

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