This Saturday March 8th is International Women’s Day—and, all over the world, there are innovative women inspiring us at Food Tank. They are business women, mothers, teachers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs, changing the food system through creating better working conditions, securing land rights, becoming leaders in their community, and more.
“In many developing countries, women are the backbone of the economy. Yet women farmers do not have equal access to resources and this significantly limits their potential in enhancing productivity,” said Melanne Verveer, Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
And in many countries, while women are responsible for the majority of food production, they are also more likely to suffer from hunger in food shortages. According to Oxfam International, women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, but only earn 10 percent of the income.
But from Jamaica to New Zealand, women are playing a big role in changing the food system to create a well-nourished world. And they are taking on larger and more defined roles in food and agriculture- globally, 70 percent of all farmers are women.
According to the World Food Programme, providing women farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million people. And when women earn more, they invest more in the health of their families.
As world population grows and the impacts of climate change become more evident, farmers and policy-makers, will need to invest more in effective strategies to alleviate hunger and poverty. And that means addressing the deep-rooted inequalities that currently impede women from gaining equal access to productive resources and services.
Here are 23 women righting the wrongs of hunger and poverty that Food Tank is celebrating this International Women’s Day.
Rebecca Adamson— Adamson is Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide, an organization facilitating the use of traditional Indigenous knowledge in solving issues such as climate change and food security.
Ertharin Cousin—Cousin is the Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme. She leads the organization with more than 25 years of experience combating hunger and food issues worldwide.
Grace Foster-Reid—Foster-Reid is the Managing Director of Ecofarms, a community-based business in Jamaica that produces honey products from her family’s farm.
Stephanie Hanson—Hanson has been the Director of Policy and Outreach at One Acre Fund since 2009, which provides smallholder farmers in Africa with support, inputs, and training, with the goal of doubling agricultural production on each acre of smallholder farmland.
Wenonah Hauter—Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, Hauter has worked extensively on food, water, energy, and environmental issues, and her book “Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America” examines corporate control over our food system.
Heather Hilleren—Hilleren is the Founder and CEO of Local Dirt, an online platform to find and buy fresh, local food directly from family farms.
Saru Jayaraman—In 2001, Jayaraman began leading a national movement to improve working conditions of food workers and founded Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
Sarah Kalloch—Kalloch is a Senior Advisor at Oxfam America and runs Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet program, engaging over 200 leading American women in anti-poverty advocacy, and builds alliances with national organizations interested in hunger, poverty and injustice.
Nancy Karanja—Karanja is a professor of soil ecology and Director of the Microbial Resource Centre at the University of Nairobi, and from 2005 to 2009, Karanja was the sub-Saharan Africa Regional Coordinator for Urban Harvest, a CGIAR program with the goal of stimulating agriculture in and around cities to alleviate poverty and increase food security.
Joan Karling—Karling is the Secretary General of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). She helps safeguard the environment, preserve traditional knowledge, and protect biodiversity through securing land rights for indigenous people.
Myrna Cunningham Kain—Kain is the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) special ambassador from Latin America, she is a social activist for the rights of Indigenous peoples with extensive experience, and in 2001 she was named, “Hero of Health in the Americas.”
Anna Lappe—Lappe is an expert on food systems and a sustainable food advocate, she has authored three books, and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund. Currently, she runs a new initiative, the Real Food Media Project, to spread the power of sustainable food.
Federica Marra—Winner of the 2012 Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Young Earth Solutions competition, Marra created Manna From Our Roofs, an innovative organization that engages young people across the world in food cultivation, preservation, and education.
Kathleen Merrigan—Merrigan is an expert on the relationship between farmers and politicians, she served as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), playing a vital role in Know Your Farmer and Know Your Food initiatives. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute at George Washington University.
Anuradha Mittal—Mittal worked as the co-director of Food First Institute for Food and Development Policy and as an internationally renowned expert on development, human rights, and agricultural issues, established the Oakland Institute, a progressive policy think tank in 2004.
Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba—Mwamakamba is a Programme Manager with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), she coordinates the Youth and Gender Programme, aimed at developing a holistic agriculture policy framework in Africa that will support youth and women.
Mariam Ouattara—From Cote d’Ivoire, Ouattara founded Slow Food Chigata, which encourages local women’s cooperatives to grow fruit and vegetable gardens. The chapter has also held workshops on how to produce ecologically sustainable food without chemicals.
Esther Penunia-Banzuela—Penunia-Banzuela is the Secretary General of the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), a regional alliance of national farmer’s organizations and as a Filipino-Asian social development worker, she brings experience working with farmers, fisherfolk, and indigenous people. She is also the International Year of Family Farming Special Ambassador for Asia and the Pacific.
Claire Quenum—Quenum is the General Secretary of the African Network on the Right to Food as well as director of the Togolose women’s right group Floraison. Through her work she promotes the right to adequate food in Africa.
Sara Scherr—Scherr is the Founder and President of EcoAgriculture Partners, a non-profit that works with agricultural communities around the world to develop ecoagriculture landscapes that enhance rural livelihoods, have sustainable and productive agricultural systems, and conserve or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Michele Simon—A public health lawyer specializing in strategies to counter tactics that harm the public’s health, Simon has been researching and writing about the food industry since 1996.
Kanthi Wijekoon—A hero to other women, Wijekoon was arrested while she was trying to escape Sri Lanka to find a better life for her family. The Rural Women’s Front helped her get out of jail and she went on to lead programs reaching more than 600 women a year, increasing daily wages for women rice farmers.
Who are the women in your life who are changing food? Food Tank wants to know! Please share with Danielle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sarah Small is a Research Associate for Food Tank: The Food Think Tank, highlighting solutions to our broken food system. Sarah attended Kalamazoo College in Michigan and received her BA in Biology and Art. She went on to graduate from DePaul University with her MS in International Public Service. Sarah has traveled to many parts of the world, working to set up medical clinics, filming documentaries, practicing yoga, developing her cross cultural understanding, and building community centers. To contact her, email email@example.com.