The author is Head of Communications at HarvestPlus
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is, “Be bold for change.” At HarvestPlus, we celebrate all the women around the world who are boldly pushing the global agenda forward for gender equality.
One of poverty’s closest partners is gender inequality. Poverty and gender inequality have a synergetic relationship that reinforce each other in a perpetual cycle of impoverishment and disempowerment. The good news, however, is that we have the research that shows how gender equality raises the quality of life for the household, the community and the nation.
Here is what we know:
Economies grow when more women work outside the home.
When women earn money, children benefit.
Increasing women’s and girls’ education grows economies.
For every year of education a woman receives, child mortality is decreased by 9.5 percent.
Women farmers make an essential contribution to agriculture globally.
Companies benefit from women’s leadership roles where studies show increased organization effectiveness.
Yet, women in the workforce are unequal to men in terms of wages, have less employment mobility, and tend to work in vulnerable, low-paid and under-valued jobs. Women also work disproportionately for unpaid household and childcare work. Two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. Only 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45 percent), urban girls (59 percent) and urban boys (60 percent). Women farmers control less land than men farmers and have less access to critical inputs such as credit and technology.
Every day around the world women are taking bold steps—big and small—to challenge a status quo that prevents them from realizing their full human potential. A bold step may be challenging a harmful traditional practice, such as early marriage, that can have a deleterious effect on a girl’s health, education and safety from domestic violence. Sending a girl to school is, in some places, an act of bold defiance in cultures that discourage educating girls. Women farmers are organizing into cooperatives to boldly advocate for greater access to credit, technology and other tools to increase the profitability of their farms and improve the wellbeing of their families. Women parliamentarians are legislating changes in property rights and access to health and education to promote women’s economic and political equality.
From the village to the global community, women are taking actions to uplift themselves out of poverty, free themselves from harmful traditional practices, and take their places as leaders in all sectors of society.
At HarvestPlus, we are standing with women everywhere in their struggle to achieve gender equality. We recognize the critical role nutrition plays in the development process. A well-nourished, healthy workforce is a pre-condition for sustainable development.
We have pioneered an innovative yet simple technology called biofortification that, through conventional breeding, increases the micronutrient levels in staple crops such as cassava, sweet potato, or maize. Our research shows that smallholder women farmers who grow and eat biofortified crops are healthier, have healthier children and, in some cases, increase their incomes with higher yielding and climate-smart crops. More income means more of their children can go to school and a healthier diet makes it easier to learn. The family, the community, and the nation benefit from better nutrition.
Last year on International Women’s day we pledged to make parity a reality. This year we salute and celebrate the community of women around the world who are being bold for change. Enjoy our video below, a dedication to all the women worldwide who are advancing the nutrition revolution.