Empowering women key to ending hunger, Bread for the World says

By Daniel Enoch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2014 - Ending discrimination against women - including in the United States - is key in the global battle against hunger, according to a new report from Bread for the World Institute.

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While the report examines hunger around the world, it devotes one of its five chapters to what it calls “the Feminization of Hunger and Poverty in the U.S,” where it says one of every three people in the country spent part of the Great Recession in poverty. For most the experience was short lived, the report says, “But it doesn't take long for hunger to harm body and soul, and it is completely unnecessary for this to happen to anyone in the United States.”

Among other things, the report calls for the elimination of the wage gap by sex and race, an increase in the minimum wage, the protection of collective bargaining rights, mandated paid sick leave, and affordable child care and health care. It also says more women are needed in public office and other decision-making bodies “critical to building a more just and equitable society.”

The report takes a special look at “caregiving” and notes that while raising children properly is vital to a nation's development, the job is often taken for granted because it is seen as women's work. It urges governments to measure and recognize the amount of time men and women spend on unpaid care work, and help women by developing public services that can assist caregivers. But attitudes also have to change, the report says.

“Unfortunately, women's willingness to share men's breadwinning responsibilities has not been matched by men's willingness to share unpaid caregiving responsibilities. Redressing the inequality will require public initiatives that lead both men and women to examine and challenge their responsibilities of what an equitable division of labor looks like.”

On a related issue, the report notes that women comprise half the world's population, but hold just 22 percent of seats in national parliaments. A chapter in the report examines the consequences of this misrepresentation and takes a close look at Rwanda, the only country in the world where women hold a majority of seats in parliament, the result of societal reconstruction following the genocide that wracked the country in 1994.

Do women govern differently than men? The report doesn't answer that question but notes that researchers have found that women on village councils in India pay more attention than men on some social services, particularly education, clean water and sanitation.

The report includes a joint statement from two women serving in the U.S. Congress who support goals enumerated in the Bread for the World Report: Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the panel's ranking member.

“There is no greater force multiplier than empowered women,” Granger and Lowey write. “In developed and developing countries alike, from conflict zones to refugee shelters, when we make women's rights and opportunity top priorities, we stand a much better chance of defeating intolerance, poverty, disease and even extremism.”

On its website, Bread for the World calls itself “a collective Christian voice urging our nation's decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad.”

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