Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. A key part of the approach is Gender Integration because it has been realized that “reducing gender inequality and recognizing the contribution of women to agriculture is critical to achieving global food security.”
In 2012, USAID released the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI). This tool assesses women’s empowerment and inclusion levels in the agricultural sector. Dr. Agnes Quisumbing, Senior Research Fellow for the Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) explained why a tool like this is key to the agriculture sector:
Q: If we’re seeing that wealth and education don’t necessarily mean “empowerment” for women, then what does empowerment mean in the context of agricultural development?
Agnes: It means a woman is able to make decisions, access the tools she needs, obtain a loan if she needs to buy inputs to expand production, join a women’s group, and take on leadership roles to advance agricultural production and tackle shared problems in the community. It means that she can control her income, better manage her time, and make sure she remains healthy and productive in her multiple roles. These factors enable a woman to do things such as produce food for her family; identify and help raise awareness to address problems affecting output – like crop disease or drought –helping communities cope with unexpected shocks; bring her products to market; and have the opportunity to both advance and benefit from economic growth opportunities.
All of this increases women’s bargaining power within her household and her ability to decide how she’ll spend her income. Our work at IFPRI has shown that women are more likely to spend additional income on their children’s health, nutrition, and education, as well as on other investments that ultimately result in dividends that advance the broader community. We know that empowering women is not only the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. It helps advance families, communities, and the broader global good.