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Call for inclusion of women in sustainable food systems

Lack of proper recognition left women smallholder farmers at stake, speakers say

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Despite playing a critical role in ensuring food security and proper nutrition for families, women remain common victims to malnutrition, experts have said. They expressed such opinion on Thursday while speaking at a national dialogue on women in the food system, according to a media statement.

Among other crises that women face in society are unhealthy food consumption and lack of accessibility to necessary healthcare services. The speakers called for recognising the position and challenges of women and formulate action plans accordingly to ensure a sustainable and inclusive food system for all, including women, in society.

According to the Labor Force Survey (2016-17), they also mentioned during the dialogue, women account for nearly half of the workforce in agriculture and nearly 3/4th of the rural female workforce is engaged in agriculture in Bangladesh.

The virtual dialogue titled “Women in the Food Systems: The Invisible Indispensable” was organised by CARE Bangladesh in association with BRAC, UNFPA, UN Women and Wave Foundation.

Government officials, development practitioners, academia, experts and media professionals attended the dialogue, which was arranged as part of the preparation for the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit 2021.

CARE Bangladesh country director Ramesh Singh in his welcome speech observed that more than 90 per cent of family farms are dependent on their family members' labour; both men and women work in the farms. Often women family members act as ‘de facto’ heads of the family.

The humanitarian organisation expressed its full support to complement the efforts of the Bangladesh government, development partners, nutrition actors and others to help reach the ‘Women in Agriculture and Food System’ targets in the coming days.

Additional secretary at the Ministry of Food Khaja Abdul Hannan, who attended the event as a Guest of Honor, said, over the last two decades women's participation in labour force and education has increased manifold. He also noted that the government has undertaken policies and programmes to ensure food and income security for women.

Director of Department of Agricultural Extension (Field Services Wing) A K M Monirul Alam, Senior Research Fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Dr Nazneen Ahmed, and Faculty of the Department of Population Sciences, University of Dhaka, Dr Mohammad Mainul Islam attended the discussion as key speakers.

They stressed the importance of women’s access to agricultural input and services, ownership and control over assets and products to improve the current status of women in the food system.

Furthermore, they also raised the point of reviewing contradictions within the current nutrition policy in respect to women and endorsing the right to food as a legally binding commitment of the state.

The dialogue arranged separate discussions focused around impact of the prevailing pandemic on women in food systems, impact of climate change and shocks on women, social protection and sustainable livelihood for women and young girls. Some key recommendations came out from the dialogue are: Recognising women as 'farmer' to ensure access to farm loans, basic services and government’s stimulus package; need for women-friendly mechanisation to help reduce women’s workload, need for women-friendly transportation to help secure women’s mobility, etc.

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