Gender equality in Agriculture: Twenty years since the 1995 Beijing declaration, are we there yet?

Women doing work on crops
Women doing work on crops. Photo: Curt Carnemark / World Bank (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

On this day in 1995, 17,000 participants from around the world gathered for the Fourth World Conference on Women in which 189 countries around the world signed The Beijing Declaration – a UN agenda for change concerning the equality of men and women.  Described as a “milestone for the world’s women”, the resolution set a blueprint of global standards to empower women across all aspects of their lives from maternal health and reproductive rights to increased participation in public life and politics.  With women being responsible for producing over half of the world’s supply of food, improving economic inequalities in agriculture was a priority on the agenda which begs me to ask the question – are we there yet?

A recent report from the World Bank on the progress since the Beijing Declaration found that 90% of the countries studied have at least one law restricting economic opportunity for women. One reason in which women are often at a disadvantage in agriculture is due to property and inheritance laws preventing them from taking ownership of the land. A 2014 study in Ghana found that, 30% of dwellings were inherited or provided as a gift, therefore, where property rights are unequal women are less likely to own their own land or property. Of the 35 of 173 countries examined in the report, women still do not have the same inheritance rights as their male counterparts.

Secondly, the report showed that women are still restricted from easily accessing credit and, lenders may still discriminate against women, limiting their ability to expand their businesses. It found that globally only 46 economies require non-discrimination in access to credit on the basis of gender.

Despite it being clear that there is still a long way to go, much has been achieved in the past 20 years that should not go unnoticed. There are numerous positive programmes in place that encourage female entrepreneurs and leaders and overall female representation has surged around the world. As an example, there are now nine female heads of government and 11 parliaments in the world in which more than 40% of MPs are women, thus, giving them more of a platform to be heard from. As the World Bank Group President noted “When women can work, manage incomes and run businesses, the benefits extend far beyond the individual level – to children, communities and entire economies. We will not rest until women have full economic rights everywhere.”

References:

The Guardian (2015) What has the United Nations ever done for women? http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/10/un-womens-rights-feminism-equality

The Guardian (2015) Women’s prospects limited by law in 155 countries, finds World Bank study http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2015/sep/09/women-business-and-the-law-2016-getting-to-equal-world-bank-report

Time (2015) Women Are Held Back by Laws Across the Globe http://time.com/4029303/women-laws-held-back/