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Why the EAC needs better gender equality in food and nutrition security | The new times

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The East African Legislative Assembly has given a nod to a motion by MP Francoise Uwumukiza urging ministers in charge of EAC affairs to recommend partner states to strengthen gender equality in access to food and nutrition security in the six-member bloc.

While justifying her motion on Thursday, June 9, the Rwandan lawmaker noted that it was part of the commitment she made during a training on “Achieving Gender Equality in Climate Change and Food Systems : actions of parliamentarians and decision-makers”, from April 24 to May 6.

“I propose this motion to request the Council of Ministers to address observed gender inequalities in food and nutrition security in the EAC,” she said.

“Food insecurity and malnutrition have many health and development consequences, with mothers and children most vulnerable to the devastating effects.”

She highlighted the concern that food insecurity and malnutrition put mothers at increased risk of dying in childbirth and giving birth to low birth weight babies who do not survive infancy, transferring the vast economic disadvantages of malnutrition in their own lives to the next generation. , thus perpetuating the vicious circle of gender inequality in access to food and nutrition security.

According to the 2019 Global Nutrition Report, obesity and diabetes were higher among women than men in the ECA. The fingers place obesity cases at 11.5% and 2.5% among Rwandan women and men, respectively. In Tanzania, women were at 15.2% while men were at 5.0%, and in Uganda, women were at 10.4% while men were at 2.3%. Kenya was at 13.4 percent for women and 3.0 for men.

Uwumukiza noted that women are fundamental in the fight against hunger and malnutrition (in line with UN SDGs 2 and 5) if they have the opportunity and the appropriate means.

Evidence shows that women are as good as men at producing food, she noted, but a persistent gender gap in access to key inputs – especially land , finance and education – is observed.

She highlighted how the documents show recognition of the importance of gender mainstreaming for improving outcomes in the agricultural sector for better food nutrition.

For example, Uwumukiza said, in all partner states’ agricultural and food security policy documents, gender imbalances are highlighted as major barriers to women’s access to opportunities in production, marketing, access to and control of productive sectors. At the operational level however, the identified challenges to women’s access to land, credit, information, marketing and others have yet to be effectively addressed by various programs at regional and partner state levels.

Supporting the motion, MP Anne Leonardo Itto (South Sudan) highlighted the subtle differences between what women and men do, which amounts to discrimination.

One of these subtle differences is the traditional grinder used by women to make soil in rural communities.

Itto said, “This type of work prevents women from participating, prevents women from earning money, prevents women from achieving nutrition and food security. Until we understand the subtle differences that undermine gender equality, we can never solve the problems of gender inequality.

Unpaid work is a very big problem

The lawmakers also urge partner states to put in place appropriate measures to address gender-based restrictions on agricultural land and other productive resources, to end existing discriminatory socio-cultural norms “including food taboos imposed on women and girls” and promote positive and equal gender norms at the household and community level.

It is a question of commitment, Itto noted, because the bloc already has knowledge and policies.

Women’s contributions to agriculture and wider food systems are not always fully or formally recognized and in some cases they earn half the salary of men or it is simply unpaid and undecent work, noted Uwumukiza.

MP Oda Gasinzigwa (Rwanda) added: “The issue of unpaid work is a very big problem in our community.

Gasinzigwa also wants women to be active and get the full benefit of their work across the agricultural value chain, and no longer toil with traditional tools.

With more limited access to inputs and assets – which are often also of poor quality – women are less able to present collateral for financial services, thereby reducing their resilience to income shocks, Uwumukiza said.

The Assembly’s monitoring activity on the impact of Covid-19 on women cross-border traders has shown that the pandemic has exacerbated existing social inequalities and widened gender gaps, as small cross-border women traders have suffered from disproportionate job losses.

Girls were also more likely than boys to be taken out of school.

Uwumukiza noted that studies have also shown that women who have secondary education are half as likely to have stunted children as those who have no formal education.

Burundi’s Minister for EAC Affairs, Amb Ezechiel Nibigira, who represented the Council of Ministers, thanked the lawmakers for raising the issues and said, “I believe the Council will look into this issue.”

Issues for the Council of Ministers to consider also include the Assembly’s recommendation to establish a gender-responsive regional food crisis response plan, including a regional food reserve that would meet the needs of small-scale farmers and herders in the rural areas ravaged by drought, especially women and children who are always the most disadvantaged the most affected

Others include urging partner states to increase women’s involvement in agribusiness and business as well as participation in the production of nutritious foods; and integrate nutrition education into school curricula to raise awareness and promote healthier consumption patterns and conduct awareness raising activities on the role of nutrition as an essential aspect of healthy pregnancy and childbearing. risks.

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