Oxfam International Blogs - women’s leadership http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/tags/women%E2%80%99s-leadership en Day 9: Feminism and Food Sovereignty http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/feminism-and-food-sovereignty <div class="field field-name-body"><p><em><strong>Food sovereignty offers opportunities to advance women’s rights, but we must also work to change gender relations within rural families and within our own movement. Peasant movements such as La Via Campesina must step up to the challenge of linking food sovereignty and feminism.</strong></em></p> <p>By <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/user/profile/pamela-elisa-caro-molina"><strong>Pamela Elisa Caro Molina</strong></a>, feminist researcher working with CLOC-La Via Campesina</p> <p>Food sovereignty offers opportunities to advance women’s rights within the food system, but we must also work to restore gender relations within rural families and within our own movement. <strong>Food sovereignty is about to peoples’ right to decide what to produce.</strong> From a feminist perspective, we need to ask ourselves who has the power to exercise this right. Peasant movements such as <a href="http://viacampesina.org/en/" rel="nofollow"><strong>La Via Campesina</strong></a> must step up to the challenge of articulating food sovereignty and feminism.</p> <p>Food sovereignty is a proposed alternative to the neoliberal model of food production and consumption. The term was coined at a forum held alongside the <a href="http://www.fao.org/wfs/index_en.htm" rel="nofollow"><strong>1996 World Food Summit</strong></a>, the result of a collective people’s concept-building process, with many women participating from La Vía Campesina (LVC).</p> <p>Under the banner “food is not a matter of markets, but of sovereignty”, the movement defends people’s right to define their own agricultural policies and to organize the distribution, exchange and consumption of food according to the needs of families and rural communities, and other cultural, ethical and aesthetic factors, in sufficient quality and quantity.</p> <p>Food sovereignty involves protecting and regulating local production and trade with a view to sustainable rural development; to fostering organic farming practices; to promoting rural–urban alliances and fair trade; and to rejecting the privatization of land, biofuels, genetically modified crops, single-crop farming and agrochemicals.</p> <p>Food sovereignty offers opportunities to advance women’s rights within the food system, because it acknowledges the historic role they have played since the invention of farming in gathering and sowing seeds, and as protectors and guardians of biodiversity and genetic resources. Women provide moral, social and emotional support for food sovereignty, “creating bread and food out of nothing”.</p> <h3><em>"Biotechnology and intellectual property rights form gender barriers to the recognition of women within the food system."</em></h3> <p>Seeds are rural women’s greatest treasure. They are both the beginning and the end of the production cycle that reflects a people’s history. If seeds exist in diverse forms and circulate freely as a collective asset, they will guarantee an abundance of food. As a result, biotechnology and intellectual property rights form gender barriers to the recognition of women within the food system, preventing women from passing on their knowledge.</p> <p>As well as strengthening local banks of indigenous seeds and continuing to promote seed exchanges, one bold suggestion would be to symbolically and materially reward women who keep and reproduce seeds.</p> <p>From a feminist perspective, the agenda of recognizing women’s historic role is not enough. We must also attempt to restore gender relations within families and our own movement, as well as re-evaluate the economic and productive nature of reproduction and food, questioning the organizational structure of the economic system based on the idea that reproduction and production are not autonomous.</p> <p>Women are beginning to assess their own personal contribution to the agricultural economy. Naturalization, invisibilization and discrimination are still taking place. One challenge for these movements is to assume that “the personal is political”, moving from “class to gender” and recognizing rural women as economic actors and political subjects with individual rights, not just holders of collective rights as a social category.</p> <p>Food sovereignty involves wholesale agricultural reform. This process must be a bold one, however, involving equality, ensuring that women are fully entitled to access and control land, fishing areas and grazing migration routes, and that indigenous people have land rights. Concrete suggestions include revising farmers’ understanding of collective and community land ownership and ensuring that land is divided fairly between the men and women who work it, including individual and joint ownership.</p> <p>Food sovereignty appeals to people’s right to decide what to produce. From a feminist point of view, we should ask ourselves how the power is divided in the exercising of this right. Concrete advances in gender emancipation will take place if decision making is egalitarian, ensuring internal democracy within families, communities and organizations.</p> <p>More specifically, we should aim to create fair decision-making bodies and help women not to feel afraid to make decisions by boosting their self-esteem, thereby promoting access to better education and training them in lobbying.</p> <p>We are currently faced with both opportunities and risks, which the movements need to come to terms with. The re-evaluation of historic social roles, such as the role of food provider, runs the risk of being limited to a mere symbolic recognition, which could even reinforce the traditional patriarchal gender division of work.</p> <p>Another risk is that of reinforcing a self-satisfied discourse of victimization, based on women’s excessive responsibilities and greater burden of work (both productive and reproductive), including the provision of care.</p> <h3><em>"We are missing opportunities to take advantage of the awakening of women's consciousness."</em></h3> <p>Opportunities are being missed to take advantage of the awakening of female consciousness and women’s leadership in movements such as LVC to question politically the patriarchal organizational structure of the economy, starting with the rural family unit.</p> <p>The <a href="http://movimientos.org/cloc/show_text.php3?key=17408" rel="nofollow"><strong>organizations</strong></a> themselves are aware that when they point out that the recognition of women’s historic contribution should result in proposals for gender equality, the patriarchal system of relations broadly continues to be established within rural daily life, making male domination an ongoing tie (Brasilia declaration by social organizations, social movements and NGOs on voluntary guidelines for ownership of land and natural resources. Page 3).</p> <p>Articulating food sovereignty and feminism is therefore the unavoidable challenge facing social movements such as LVC. It requires them to review their focuses and strategies with a view to making advances in gender equality and the empowerment of women. The strategies that should be reinforced are to continue claiming social assets and productive resources (land, water, equipment, machinery, storage centres), but also to promote genuine participation, autonomy and sovereignty for women in all areas: the economy, politics, and even sexuality, calling on women to uphold the “sovereignty of the land of their bodies” by saying ‘no’ to gender violence.</p> <p>Concrete suggestions include fostering the balanced participation of men and women in all stages of the production and distribution of food, setting up alert systems when, for cultural reasons, activities that are carried out mainly by women (such as seed reproduction) are undervalued and, by contrast, the public activities that tend to involve men more (such as selling) are overvalued. Another suggestion is to promote women taking control of the entire economic and production chain, all the way up to selling their produce at markets, with income for individual women to help to support their autonomy.</p> <p>Food-related chores should be the responsibility of everyone, not just of women as part of the gender mandate. For LVC, this should involve politicizing private food-preparation spaces, incorporating a “behind closed doors” debate into families’ and couples’ lives and questioning the unfair traditional organizational structure of rural families.</p> <h3><em>"The movement should publicly denounce gender inequalities in society, families and in social organizations."</em></h3> <p><em></em>The challenges facing the movement include publicly denouncing gender inequalities in society, families and social organizations, as well as promoting practical models of agrofood production that involve equal work and equal rest, like a horizontal, cooperative employer–employee relationship, with no privileges for men or gender-based hierarchies.</p> <p>Since these changes are not “by decree”, the platform must generate awareness-raising processes that seek to denaturalize certain behaviours and eliminate patriarchal views that subtly infiltrate the consciousness, with the understanding that the invisible destiny of women is a social and therefore removable phenomenon, and that gender equity involves both interchangeability and reciprocity.</p> <p>These daily spaces for reflection in rural life can take place at a social gathering, around the stove, at a party or even at a football match. It is also a good idea to hold workshops with children and teenagers, as well as using local media to promote the message of equality.</p> <p>La Via Campesina’s female leaders in Latin America have held a number of food sovereignty campaigns, which have caused tensions among male leaders, who have spent years in public leadership roles. In the process of strengthening leadership positions in order to challenge imbalances of power, it is essential to promote alliances with non-rural feminist movements, which can provide training, arguments and strategies for tackling the conflicts that arise out of change, helping to make the process of gender equality a sustainable one. </p> <p>Download: <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/Pamela-Caro_Oxfam-online-discussion.pdf"><strong>Food Sovereignty and Gender Equality</strong></a></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 9: Feminism and Food Sovereignty</h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_fr first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/feminisme-et-souverainete-alimentaire" title="Jour 9: Féminisme et souveraineté alimentaire" class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> <li class="translation_es last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/feminismo-y-soberania-alimentaria" title="Día 9: Feminismo y soberania alimentaria" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> </ul> Thu, 29 Nov 2012 00:10:00 +0000 Pamela Elisa Caro Molina 10086 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/feminism-and-food-sovereignty#comments Day 7: Seeds and Sisterhood http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/seeds-and-sisterhood <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong><em>Governments and development agencies need to shift the onus of feeding the world away from time-strapped impoverished women, and instead support their organizing and cultivate their traditional knowledge. We also need to rethink women’s unpaid care work and lack of time as fundamental issues of food security.</em></strong></p> <p>By <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/user/profile/joanna-kerr"><strong>Joanna Kerr</strong></a>, CEO of ActionAid International</p> <p>As someone who has been working for women’s rights and sustainable development for the past two decades, <strong>I have heartily embraced the increased international attention on the needs and roles of women farmers in poor communities</strong>. But as development agencies prioritize these rural women, let us ensure that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past. If hunger, climate change AND inequality are to be tackled then NGOs, governments and women’s movements need an approach that shifts the onus of feeding the world away from time-strapped impoverished women, and instead supports them in their organizing and in their cultivation of traditional knowledge, and puts their rights first.</p> <h3><em>"Women are on the frontlines of the struggle over the way our food is produced, over knowledge, over seeds and over the sustainability of the food system as a whole."</em></h3> <p>From what I have seen across many parts of the Global South, women are on the frontlines of the struggle over the way our food is produced, over knowledge, over seeds and over the sustainability of the food system as a whole. Deo, a 42 year old Brazilian farmer working with <strong><a href="http://www.actionaid.org/?intl=" rel="nofollow">ActionAid</a></strong>, told me just how women are trying to bring about fundamental change:<em></em></p> <p><em>Men don’t know how to wait. They want to plant and then harvest. Working in agroecology demands patience. Time is needed to obtain a positive result, especially since our [past] way of farming has damaged our land too much. The men eventually abandoned the new system and returned to conventional methods. The women joined forces …to learn and fight with their husbands to change, stop the practice of burning, diversify production, feed the soil by covering it with the plants themselves and grow medicinal plants to improve our livelihoods.”</em></p> <p>Clearly, women like Deo make a significant contribution to localized food systems; millions like her are the primary food producers, providers, and processers in many developing countries. In fact, local small-scale food producers and providers have been innovating for generations, looking after our soils, seeds and the cultural heritage that accompanies food. Rural women in particular – be they farmers, forest dwellers, tribals or indigenous women –have been the repositories of knowledge on food production, seed conservation, processing and cooking food.</p> <p>Yet over the years this knowledge and these traditional, resilient and efficient systems have come under sustained attack from industrialized, mechanized food production and distribution systems. The push to homogenous crops in the fields and standardized foods on supermarket shelves is largely the underlying cause of the decline of these methods.</p> <p>As a response, ActionAid has been supporting an agroecology model of sustainable agriculture not through pre-set technological packages, rather built on the local practices of farmers. Our agroecological initiatives focus on organic methods, promoting diverse and nutritious crops while recognizing and building on the skills and experiences of women farmers and connecting them to academic knowledge on sustainable agriculture.</p> <p>But here lies the dilemma. These sustainable and more climate-resilient methods – as Deo reminds us above – take time to develop.  Time is a poor woman’s most limited resource. Society’s expectation that women will do the additional “care work” – child care, cooking, cleaning, water and fuel hauling – stands in the way of both development and women’s empowerment.</p> <h3><em>"Women’s unpaid care work and their lack of time are frustratingly not seen as fundamental issues of food security." </em></h3> <p>Women’s unpaid care work and their lack of time are frustratingly not seen as fundamental issues of food security.  Policy makers and most agriculture programmes are not recognizing women as food producers with both productive AND reproductive roles.   Development programmes usually address these separately and fail to see the linkages and trade-offs that come with seeing women only as farmers or only as carers/food providers.</p> <p>Generally speaking, agriculture departments and donors prioritize high yield production through chemical inputs and new seeds.  Green Revolution thinking is rampant.  And while peasant movements are justifiably fighting for land, they usually leave women’s rights as an afterthought.  Even in my own organization there are some colleagues who quite simply laughed at the prospect of focussing on, let alone men sharing, care responsibilities.  Gender norms run very deep. Further, while many women’s groups are trying to bring the care burden to the fore, the overwhelming demands of tackling violence against women or lack of reproductive rights overshadow this issue.</p> <p>I’d argue there are some relatively easy solutions to tackle both gender equality and sustainable agriculture including looking beyond the technical to the political.</p> <p>One obvious route is to ensure rural women have the means and possibility to organize.  I have seen, over and over, that by bringing women together, they can strengthen their identity as rural women, build solidarity among family farming groups, circulate useful knowledge, build their self-confidence, achieve individual and collective empowerment and even transform public policies.</p> <h3><em>"Women are using agroecology as an effective strategy to take back control over what they produce and how they produce it."</em></h3> <p>Second, donors and NGOs need to recognize that when women are using agroecology as an effective strategy to take back control over what they produce and how they produce it, they are actually having a positive impact on their food security, incomes, and health. They are expanding the area under their control where they can grow diversified and nutritious crops – in some cases their backyard garden – while reducing their labour provision to the family’s field where they had little control over the output and profits.</p> <p>Third, policy makers and programmers need to re-think the care economy as simply the domain of women’s unpaid time. Optimistically, this is increasingly an area of policy debate – of who should provide care services amongst the mix of families, public institutions, NGO service-deliverers and private companies. The policy response to this challenge is complex (i.e. it is not just wages for housework) and requires contextualisation, but overall, this debate needs to be brought into focus so that societies’ recognize and ultimately redistribute this care work.</p> <p>In the meantime, at the more practical level, where I have seen crèches or child centres, women’s milling cooperatives, seed banks, and other appropriate technologies to reduce women’s time, women’s leadership and empowerment follows.  These pragmatic efforts to improve the time efficiency of women’s food production can also have significant strategic benefits. The common notion that women are “helpers” and that their labour has less value than those of men will be transformed.</p> <p>In many cases, agroecology practices have helped show women and their families the importance of women’s economic autonomy—including the control and use of income raised by women. In ActionAid’s experience this work has motivated a growing number of women to proactively take on leadership roles in rural workers’ unions, and to come together to discuss issues such as market access and fight for new public policies on agriculture.</p> <h3><em>"Donors and NGOs need to support women’s organizing as both a means and an end in itself."</em></h3> <p>Many mainstream approaches to agriculture have perversely increased hunger, deepened poverty, undermined fragile soil systems and considerably increased women’s work burden. Donors and NGOs need to activate a holistic approach that increases women’s control over their time and their agricultural practices.  This means explicit support to women’s organizing as both a means and an end in itself.</p> <p>Supporting women’s farming groups through agroecology is not some out-dated romantic vision of traditional systems nor a feminist utopia as some critics might suggest.  Instead, more governments, NGOs, and social movements need to embrace these common-sense approaches and the very women who are at the forefront of the battles for food, sustainability, and human rights.</p> <p>Agroecology is where food justice and women’s rights could walk hand in hand.<em> </em><em></em>Download: <strong><a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/Joanna-Kerr_Oxfam-online-discussion.pdf"><strong>Seeds and Sisterhood</strong></a><em></em></strong></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 7: Seeds and Sisterhood</h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_fr first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/semences-et-solidarite-feminine" title="Jour 7: Semences et solidarité féminine" class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> <li class="translation_es last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/semillas-y-hermandad" title="Día 7: Semillas y hermandad" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> </ul> Tue, 27 Nov 2012 00:00:01 +0000 Joanna Kerr 10073 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/seeds-and-sisterhood#comments Day 6: Stop Talking About Equality http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/stop-talking-about-equality <div class="field field-name-body"><p><em><strong>Business leaders change behavior when something is in it for them and their companies. If we want them to change the way they do business, we need to stop talking about justice and gender equality, and instead show how a fairer food system means sustainable profits.</strong></em></p> <p>By <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/en/user/profile/tinna-c-nielsen"><strong>Tinna Nielsen</strong></a>, senior diversity and inclusion consultant<strong></strong></p> <p><strong>Business leaders change behavior when something is in it for them and their businesses.</strong> If we want them to change the way they do business, we need to stop talking about justice and gender equality, and instead show how a fairer food system means sustainable profits.</p> <p>In my work as a business anthropologist in a private sector dairy and food company, I have seen how a change in discourse can lead to behavioral change among business leaders, which in turn leads to greater gender equality. Interestingly, shifting the focus away from ‘justice’, ‘women’ and ‘social responsibility’ and towards ‘profit’ is what has worked. If we expect private sector corporations to contribute to the development of ‘a just food system for women’, we need to empower the privileged to work in new ways.</p> <h3>From “equality” to “performance”</h3> <p>All discourses have connotations, and in the corporate world the discourses on gender equality and corporate social responsibility unfortunately imply helping the minority for the good of the minority. Over decades, this approach has not made any appreciable difference for women or people living in poverty, nor has it changed the mindset and behavior of corporate leaders.</p> <h3><em>"The discourse on gender equality and corporate social responsibility has not made any appreciable difference for women or people living in poverty.</em>"</h3> <p><strong><a href="http://www.internationalbusinessreport.com/files/ibr2012%20-%20women%20in%20senior%20management%20master.pdf" rel="nofollow">Research from 2011</a></strong> reveals that women currently hold 20% of senior management positions globally, down from 24% in 2009, and up just 1% from 2004. Worldwide women hold only 9% of CEO positions, even as the proportion of women in the labor market and middle management positions continuously increases. In recent years there has been no real progress in achieving gender diversity in the highest corporate decision-making bodies despite an increasing amount of companies implementing gender equality and diversity &amp; inclusion initiatives.</p> <p>My experience is that by emphasizing business benefits (higher performance, reduced costs, new market shares, and sustainable profits) we can change the mindset and behavior of business leaders. When equality and diversity are perceived as business enablers – as levers to performance rather than end goals – they matter to business leaders.</p> <p>Such a counter-discourse has worked in the global company where I work. Instead of setting goals for equality or diversity, we have set a strategic objective for team composition:</p> <p>All teams at all levels in all functions must contain no more than seventy per cent of the same gender, generation, national/ethnic background, and educational/disciplinary background. The business rationale is that reducing homogeneity in outlook and perspectives improves performance.</p> <p><a href="http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8353.html" rel="nofollow"><strong>Research</strong></a> and <a href="https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442210455" rel="nofollow"><strong>best practices</strong></a> have proven that the inclusion of a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds makes for more sustainable and innovative solutions and decisions, because diverse teams process more information, make better predictions and adopt a longer-term perspective. This can have profound impacts for businesses, producers and consumers.</p> <p>Over many years I have seen that the first movers in such a change process are those for whom diversity connotes synergy, innovation and performance. As laudable as concerns of fairness and justice may be, they do not appear to create the proper expectations for <a href="http://hbr.org/1996/09/making-differences-matter-a-new-paradigm-for-managing-diversity/ar/1" rel="nofollow"><strong>benefits of diversity</strong></a> to materialize. The business case for diversity and the inclusion of women, on the other hand, does.</p> <h3>Diversity benefits women’s access to food</h3> <p>While diversity in the workforce is important, it alone is not sufficient to bring about meaningful change. Corporations must seek to bring diversity into their supply chains and target more diverse consumers as part of their innovation process and business model. This can have a meaningful impact on food security and the empowerment of women in poverty.</p> <h3><em> "Corporations must seek to bring diversity into their supply chains and target more diverse consumers."</em></h3> <p>For example, in the <a href="http://www.arlafoods.ca/" rel="nofollow"><strong>global food company</strong></a> where I work, consulting poor non-consumers in Africa as part of the business innovation process has paid off for both the company and poor women. Because company leaders learned that poor women could not afford baby formula, the company began producing small day-to-day packages that mothers could afford, instead of the large packages that they could not. Not only did their babies then have more reliable access to food, these female non-consumers suddenly acquired the status of important consumers in the company’s eyes.</p> <p>Another example is how collaboration with small cocoa bean producers in Africa gave business leaders new insights into how to keep prices and costs stable. Since the cocoa bean industry is volatile, farmers tended to change industry to survive, which indirectly led cocoa bean prices to rise. The company realized that by contributing to high living standards in terms of food security and education for the families of coco bean farmers, it could help prevent these farmers from moving over to the palm oil industry. There was clearly a business case for keeping supply prices stable in a volatile market.</p> <p>Some companies engage in this kind of inclusive collaboration with small food producers as part of their corporate social responsibility commitments, but I would argue that more companies would do so if the business case was made.</p> <h3>Empower the privileged</h3> <p>The powerful corporate leaders who are one of many blockers to a just food system do not wake up in the morning thinking about how they and their actions are connected to the poor or to women farmers in developing countries. For business leaders to change behavior, the case needs to be made for profit and market shares, not social responsibility. So we need to refocus our discourse: A just food system is one in which all people have access to food, because this will mean more consumers and more sustainable profits for corporations.</p> <h3><em>"For business leaders to change behavior, the case needs to be made for profit and market shares, not social responsibility."</em></h3> <p>We have to change the tools the privileged use to ‘govern’ their actions. This begins with personal development, where business leaders and employees gain a new kind of awareness of the world. They will not fundamentally transform their organizations and ways of doing business until they realize the value in consulting and working with people different from themselves in the global marketplace.</p> <h3>Moving forward</h3> <p>I am convinced that empowering business decision-makers to create inclusive business models will have a multiplier effect. When a few powerful people start moving, they all move eventually.</p> <p>We have not yet seen more women involved in decision-making processes despite the increasing support of business leaders and all the effort made to empower women. Empowering women does little good when women are part of a power system where profit and personal agendas are the true dictators of behavior.</p> <h3><em>"Empowering women does little good when women are part of a power system where profit and personal agendas are the true dictators of behavior."</em></h3> <p>It is time to stop launching actions for more justice, and start lobbying all leaders in public and private industry to commit to reducing homogeneity in decision-making and to building diverse stakeholder collaboration as a natural ’need-to-have’ element in their business models. This I believe will create a fundamental transformation that will contribute to a more ‘just food system’ for women…and everyone.<strong> </strong></p> <p>Download<strong> <a href="http://blogs.oxfam.org/sites/blogs.oxfam.org/files/Tinna-Nielsen_Oxfam-online-discussion.pdf">Stop Talking About Equality</a></strong><strong></strong><em><strong></strong></em></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Day 6: Stop Talking About Equality</h2></div><ul class="links inline"><li class="translation_es first"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/es/blogs/dejemos-de-hablar-de-igualdad" title="Día 6: Dejemos de hablar de igualdad" class="translation-link" xml:lang="es">Español</a></li> <li class="translation_fr last"><a href="http://l.blogs.oxfam/fr/blogs/cessez-de-parler-d%E2%80%99egalite" title="Jour 6: Cessez de parler d’égalité " class="translation-link" xml:lang="fr">Français</a></li> </ul> Mon, 26 Nov 2012 00:00:01 +0000 Tinna C. Nielsen 10410 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/stop-talking-about-equality#comments