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Agenda: Empowering women for gender equity
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Giving realisation to the ‘right to food’
Shirin Motala



Economic Development and Performance Unit of the Human Sciences Research
Council , E-mail:
Published online: 13 Aug 2012.

To cite this article: Shirin Motala (2010) Giving realisation to the ‘right to food’, Agenda: Empowering women for
gender equity, 24:86, 3-7
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2010).7 respectively against a global At the peak of the global economic recession and GHI score of 15.1). Significantly. covering Worldwide & Welt-Hungerhilfe. suggests that to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving poverty. the number of people Of concern is the fact that child underweight hungry and malnourished in the world surpassed contributed 7. 2010). Evidence suggests that there has been little progress towards achieving this right. Concern outcomes for children is much narrower. Unsurprisingly. there were 264 million hungry Recent evidence suggests that the “window of people in sub-Saharan Africa (FAO. keywords right to food. 2010). Concern Worldwide & score of 15.Giving realisation to the ‘right to food’ Downloaded by [Gadjah Mada University] at 06:12 05 February 2015 Shirin Motala abstract The right to food is a fundamental human right enshrined in international law. Gimenez & Patel.9 and 21. 2010) noted that the period from conception to the child’s second world hunger remained at a serious level in South birthday (1000 days). a necessary precondition is that gender equality is addressed.4 points (nearly half) of the global GHI the 1 billion mark (IFPRI. Children whose well-being is Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. food insecurity and gender inequality. Our responses need to address both long-term structural issues. as well as short-term measures necessary to mitigate the harsh impacts of hunger and poverty. Some examples of social protection measures that are proving effective in this regard are given. their GHI scores not addressed during this period face irreversible Giving realisation to the ‘right to food’ 3 . This reflects the reality that the right to food is According to the UN Food and Agriculture NOT being realised. sub-Saharan Africa is Welt-Hungerhilfe. Organization (FAO). such as changing the power relationships in society. food price crisis in 2009. gender equality and MDGs Introduction being 22. based on available evidence. The roots of childhood undernutrition are related unrest in cities across the globe (Holt- poverty. The opportunity” for improving life and well-being 2010 Global Hunger Index (GHI) (IFPRI. social protection. especially for young children.1. This introduction to this special issue explores the meaning of this right and. between home to more the 90% of the world’s stunted 2007 and 2008 there were over 40 food riots and children. particularly for children.

In 1990 world leaders committed themselves to National food security is determined by Household food security is determined by reducing poverty and hunger. Further The right to food consensus was that without addressing this goal it The right of freedom from hunger is a fundamental was going to be impossible to achieve any of the human right in international law (Kunnermann others. particularly in relation to food. in the discourse on food and hunger. through government action to ensure that leading to deficiencies in energy. Some protect and fulfil the right to food. • Fulfilling the right to food places an obligation on government to enable individuals to access food through direct production (farming) or through earning sufficient income to purchase required food. has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or the means Understanding concepts and definitions for its procurement” (FAO. gender of household members). sufficient and nutritious food”. definitions are offered below. turn can impact on agriculture production costs. as reflected in the several factors. hunger mean that government has to give everyone targets. grants we are nowhere near achieving MDG 1 target of and assets). including national food security this article. and the right is realised take into account the interconnectedness between 4 AGENDA 86 2010 . including household composition adoption of the eight Millennium Development (age. 2009). food insecurity. regional and international level when “all people. Food security is defined by the World Food Programme (1996) as a situation at individual. It is also impacted on by many In September 2010 at a World Summit to external factors. community with others. malnutrition and undernutrition feature food. the minimum norm way reduces people’s enjoyment of this right. the picture that emerged particularly in respect of MDG 1 for sub-Saharan Africa was bleak. although it obliges governments to respect. at all times have physical. 2009). Food security by governments. the right to food does not Respecting the right to food requires that Hunger is defined by FAO as consumption of governments not take action which in any less than 1800 kilocalories daily. policies relating to food production and trade Progress towards realising Millennium Development Goals policies. essential vitamins. 2004). geographical location (urban or rural) halving the number of people in the world who are and institutions such as markets and social networks hungry by 2015. that most adults require to live and be healthy. What has became clearer is the need to & Epal-Ratjen. a theme explored further on in exists at many levels. (Jacobs. size. The 2010 GHI makes it patently clear that and livelihood strategies pursued (wages.introduction Downloaded by [Gadjah Mada University] at 06:12 05 February 2015 consequences – a lifetime of poor physical and when “every man. Undernutrition/undernourishment describes the status of a person whose food intake is • Protecting the right to food can be realised inadequate both in terms of quantity and quality. protein and food consumed is uncontaminated. Concepts of food security. social and economic access The right to food can be progressively realised to safe. women and child. wealth Goals. national. • Simply stated. Malnutrition relates to both undernutrition and overnutrition (over-consumption). alone or in cognitive development. In a natural disaster situation it would be government’s responsibility to provide food. and household food security. which in assess progress towards achieving the eight MDGs. including energy costs.

transform the world’s food production and distribution systems. UNIFEM-UNDP (2010) highlighted the fact ..2% decrease A wide range of social protection measures are in the proportion of the population living in adopted by governments to mitigate impacts of poverty (Datt et al. General community- and household-based programmes include public employment schemes. however. people cope in crisis situations. they argue that the root cause is not lack of In 1973 the right to food was given concrete effect Giving realisation to the ‘right to food’ 5 introduction MDGs. We are. agricultural extension training and access only • • • • 10% of rural credit (UNIFEM-UNDP. Our responses to the global economic and food Downloaded by [Gadjah Mada University] at 06:12 05 February 2015 crisis have to be multifaceted and multi-layered. 2010). Of is where adopting social protection measures to concern. and could prevent 3 to 4 million infant deaths in the social services support to vulnerable households. According to Patnaik. first 4 weeks of life. unequal power relationships globally. 1999). they also can In Mozambique. but also an important means for realizing responsibility to protect and ensuring environmental sustainability. reminded that short-term responses to • Two-thirds of all women in the African mitigate harsh impacts of poverty and hunger on continent are employed in the agricultural the most vulnerable are equally necessary. poverty reduction. Tackling causes of hunger and poverty hygiene education and promotion. vitamin and a few years of education are likely to promote mineral supplementation. school feeding programmes. Programmes focused Providing adequate nutrition and care for on households living in deep poverty include disease pregnant women before and during childbirth management and prevention. cash transfers. they receive only 5% of mitigate the harsh effects become important. mothers with birth registration. access to food is a highly dependent on progress in each of the other deeply political issue. and that withdrawal of price support and cutbacks in similarly. Social protection mechanisms World Bank research (2004) suggests that a 1-year The global economic crisis highlighted the increase in schooling of adult females contributes importance of social protection measures to help to an increase in gross domestic product. Why is achieving gender equality and empowerment important for food and nutrition security? Long-term responses include the need to transform There is compelling evidence from World Bank and and promote greater respect for and commitment UNIFEM studies that empowering women is key to to human rights. mitigating hunger by governments to support trade liberalisation.). hunger and poverty. particularly gender rights. increasing the number of adult – if properly designed and implemented – lay females per household that have completed foundations for long-term food security. Those focused on addressing Educating mothers makes sense if we want to the needs of chronically hungry children can include improve outcomes for children. primary schooling leads to a 23. namely reducing poverty. but rather the global system of trade in food that achievement of gender equality targets is products. Here sector and produce 90% of the food. micro-credit schemes and income generation. and to achieving MDG targets: however. all the MDGs”. all of which confirm abdication of their own right. Holt-Gimenez and Patel (2010) and Patnaik (2004) among others are agreed as to causes of global The case of Bello Horizonte hunger. and implementation of their children’s attendance at school (ibid. as reflected in choices made MDGs. growth monitoring. gender equality is “not only a goal in its subsidies.

HSRC led a special focus on factors impacting on Establishing food markets where an identified food security at a household level. and even a recipe or two. CWP sites food gardens (both communal and home) which is recorded as providing food to 12 000 are one of the many key activities. the fourth largest city in Brazil over 800 000 citizens daily. The seeds of this special edition were sown in 2010 when the HSRC undertook a study for Oxfam (Hart & Jacobs. • schools. has over several years had a focus on land. receiving a small stipend attempting to increase food production. an employment safety net initiative which policy environment to assist people who are provides unemployed people with “regular work on food insecure to supplement their food needs. in the region of R50 per day for a total of 8 days per Some of the unique measures adopted month. the disabled and the elderly. and for at least 2 days per week. Recently South Africa city government declared that “all citizens have The city embarked on a programme of action has introduced the Community Work Programme around three focus areas: creating an enabling (CWP). Across many of the nutritious meal could be obtained cheaply. current prices. which Lappe (2002) as essentially government officials currently reaches over 13 million South African acknowledging to its citizens that “if you are too children. two of which merit mention. been established in clinics. well as ensuring that children received fresh fruit and vegetables.2 million which during the the city managed to achieve all this by spending early 1990s had an estimated 38% of families only 2% of the city budget. 2010) aimed at understanding how The results have been widely acclaimed. with Belo 6 AGENDA 86 2010 the rise in food prices and recent global economic . creating a new market for farmers as university whereby regular surveys of prices About this Special Edition on ‘Gender. food handling identify and evaluate policy options. In 2008 the safety. 2003). at a macro level to monitor food security and to food preparation. we are accountable to you”. This declaration was interpreted by Lappe and The first is SA’s cash transfer programme. It is widely poor to buy food in the market – you are no less a recognised that without this safety net. a predictable basis”. living under the poverty line. schools and in the yards of Enabling farmers to supply produce directly to vulnerable households.introduction Downloaded by [Gadjah Mada University] at 06:12 05 February 2015 by the municipal government of Bello Horizonte Horizonte with its various programmes reaching (Rocha. A key requirement is that the work must be included the following: useful. A ‘Food Citizenship’ radio show run daily which agriculture.” protection measures. where participants receive work expanding food distribution opportunities. Food and Nutrition Security in the context of the Global Economic Crisis’ of 45 basic goods were conducted and the The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) information widely disseminated. South Africa’s citizen. poverty reduction and food security provides accessible information on nutrition. • • • Developing a partnership with the local list of 20 food items are sold at a reduced fixed price. Food gardens have people daily. promote the public good and improve quality • Establishing Peoples Restaurants where a of life in targeted communities. inequality gap would be wider. The newly elected the right to adequate quantity and quality Social protection measures in South Africa of food throughout their lives and that it’s a South Africa has implemented a number of social duty of government to guarantee this right. Most revealing is that with a population of 2.

Prior to joining the HSRC in October 2008 she was KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Coordinator for the Civil Society Advocacy Programme. human rights. available at http:// www. Oxford: Fahamu Press. Rome: FAO. World Food Programme (1996) World Food Summit. Bonn. Food and Agriculture Organization & World Food Programme (2010) The State of Food Insecurity in the World. a partnership project between the South African Human Rights Commission. Patnaik U (2004) The Republic of Hunger and other Essays. Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). more importantly. Simler K & Mukerjee S (1999) The determinants of poverty in Mozambique: Final Report. in Agrekon. would like to thank the Editorial Board of AGENDA for partnering with us in the publication of this special issue. Food and Agriculture Organization (2009) Budget Work to Advance the Right to Food. HSRC. Winters P & Davis B (2009) ‘Designing a Programme to Support Smallholder Agriculture in Mexico: Lessons from PROCAMPO and Oportunidades’. 27(5): 617-642. 8(4). 362-383. South Africa. Johannesburg: Global Poverty Dialogue. in Hope’s Edge: The Next Diet for A Small Planet.phtml). Jacobs P (2009) ‘The status of household food security targets in South Africa’. The focus on food security falls under a larger research programme focus on sustainable development within the Economic Performance Downloaded by [Gadjah Mada University] at 06:12 05 February 2015 and Development unit of the HSRC (http://www. site accessed 15 April 2010.php?article2373. gender and child rights. Her areas of research interest include child development with a special emphasis on child rights. Rome: FAO. IFPRI. Girma A (2010) Achieving the UN MDGs in Africa – Challenges and the Way Forward. New York: Tarcher. Hart T & Jacobs PT (2010) Household food insecurity. the Commission on Gender Equality and The Office of the Public Protector. in Agrekon. Washington DC: AAAS Science and Human Rights Programme. that female-headed households bore the brunt of the suffering. Washington DC & Dublin: WeltHungerhilfe. Hart T (2009) ‘Exploring definitions of food insecurity and vulnerability: Time to refocus assessments’. Plan of Action. Brazil’. particularly targeted at poor and vulnerable women. Dehli: Three Essays Collective. vulnerability and Washington DC: World Bank. She has worked as a development practitioner in the field of land and rural development. Shirin has been leading the EPD Scaling Up Early Childhood Development Sub-Programme aimed at enhancing outcomes for young children while at the same time expanding opportunities for employment in this sector. 36-47. Holt-Gimenez E & Patel R (2010) Food Rebellions: Crisis and the Hunger for Justice. social welfare and poverty eradication. UNIFEM-UNDP (2010) ‘Making the MDGs work better for women: implementing gender-responsive national development plans and programmes’. Acknowledgements The Guest Editor and Economic Performance and Development. Concern Worldwide & Welt-Hungerhilfe (2010) Global Hunger Index.un-ngls. References Datt G. in Journal for the Study of Food and Society. She holds an MA in Development from the University of the study found a 2-3 percentage point increase in household experiences of hunger Kunnermann R & Epal-Ratjen S (2004) The Right to Food – A Resource Manual for NGOs. hsrc. Rome: FAO. Oxfam. Not unsurprisingly.of low-income households. 5(1). Rocha C (2003) ‘Urban Food Security Policy: The Case of Belo Horizonte. Lappe FM & Lappe A (2002) ‘Beautiful horizons’. Email: smotala@hsrc. poverty and socio-economic rights. World Bank (2004) Focus on Women and Development: Improving women’s health and girls education is key to reducing poverty. in Development Policy Giving realisation to the ‘right to food’ 7 introduction crisis might have affected food security status . SHIRIN MOTALA is a Senior Research Manager in the Economic Development and Performance Unit of the Human Sciences Research 410-433. 8(4). rapid food price inflation and the economic downturn.