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Every year on 8 March, we celebrate International Women’s Day as a global observance that honours the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women – a recognition of their contributions throughout history and across different sectors. Since the early 20th century, International Women’s Day has been commemorated as a symbol of solidarity amongst women around the world – a call to action for gender equality and the advancement of women’s rights.

The extent to which International Women’s Day is celebrated has allowed it to serve as a platform to highlight persistent challenges faced by women, foster discussions, raise awareness and to overall advocate for a more inclusive and equitable world for all. The basis for promoting women’s empowerment is grounded in the idea that when women achieve the ability to make independent choices, there is a higher likelihood of witnessing social

and economic advancements across various aspects – a concept that is the focus of many policy discussions in African nations.

In a global landscape grappling with numerous crises, the importance of attaining gender equality has never been more pronounced. Guaranteeing the rights of women and girls in every facet of life is essential for fostering equitable and thriving economies, as well as ensuring a sustainable planet for the well-being of future generations. However, a significant obstacle in reaching the goal of gender equality by 2030 is the concerning shortage of funding, with an annual deficit of a substantial USD 360 billion in expenditures for measures promoting gender equality. This year’s theme in particular, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” is a call to action for increased investments on human rights, poverty eradication, gender-responsive financing, transitioning to a green economy and care society, and supporting feminist change-makers.

Women and girls make up half of the world’s population and therefore half of its potential. Accelerating progress and investment in women is not just an act of empowerment; it is an investment in the very foundation of sustainable development.

Women’s role within Food Systems

The call to invest in women is a strategic imperative that resonates profoundly within the realms of agriculture, food, and nutrition security. Agriculture has the potential to serve as a significant driver of economic growth, development and poverty alleviation. In fact, agrifood systems serve as a significant source of employment for women worldwide, making up 43% of the agricultural sector, and often playing a more crucial role in women’s livelihoods than in men’s in numerous countries.

Yet, despite the significance of agrifood systems for women’s livelihoods and their families’ wellbeing, women often find themselves marginalized in these roles. Women face subpar working conditions compared to men, characterized by irregularity, informality, part-time arrangements, low-skilled tasks, and labour-intensive activities, rendering them financially vulnerable. While it must be acknowledged, that over the last decade significant progress has been made in narrowing gaps in access to financial services, mobile internet, and phones – all major contributors to extension services and other agricultural activities– recent studies have found that there exists a financial gender gap of around USD 42 billion in Africa, with 70% of women being financial excluded. In addition, rates of women’s access to land and livestock ownerships, inputs, and services remain alarmingly low. Concealed dimensions of gender inequality within the agricultural sector exacerbate the issue of women’s ownership of agricultural land, standing at a mere 12%, despite women constituting nearly half of the total agricultural workforce across the continent.
Empowering women and addressing gender disparities within agrifood systems not only improve the welfare of women and their households but also curb hunger, increase incomes, and reinforce community resilience.

Strategic investments well-beyond agriculture are necessary to achieve Zero-Hunger But, why the great need to invest in women? And what do we really mean when we say ‘investment’?

Indeed, as the primary contributors to agriculture in many regions, women play a pivotal role in the journey towards zero hunger. From production to processing, distribution to marketing, women’s involvement is indispensable for creating resilient and sustainable food systems. By providing them with equal access to resources, training, and technology, we unlock their ability to optimize agricultural practices, ultimately leading to increased yields and enhanced food security.

However, investing in women in agriculture should go beyond solving these imbalances. Aside from the immense potential they hold to transform food systems, women as income earners, as decision-makers, and as caregivers of society can all have fundamental impacts on food security and nutrition.

For example, investing in women’s education positively impacts food and nutrition security. As women attain education and increased income, they acquire knowledge about the preparation and consumption of nutritious foods. Their ability to understand healthy food choices consequently lowers the likelihood of household members developing health issues associated with their diet. Research indicates that when women have a greater influence on decisions, spending, and time management, both their own nutrition and that of their families tend to improve.Women, as primary caregivers, hold the key to ensuring the nutritional well-being of their families and communities. Additionally, given that women typically allocate a significant portion of their incomes to their families, the enhancement of women’s empowerment, especially in the economic sphere, is recognized as a means to enhance household living standards, encompassing improvements in nutrition.

By investing in women’s education and capacity, healthcare, and financial independence, amongst other aspects, we empower them to make informed decisions about food and nutrition, fostering healthier households. Thus, investing in women should extend beyond merely breaking barriers of gender imbalances and women’s full participation in the workforce, and especially in the agriculture sector. Investing in women means creating an inclusive environment conducive for women to thrive in all aspects of life, which would be truly empowering, and contribute more meaningfully to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 – Zero Hunger.

Concluding Remarks

Given the role that gender equality and women’s empowerment play in food and nutrition security, the Regional Centre of Excellence against Hunger and Malnutrition (CERFAM) is deeply committed to investing in women. By joining its voice to the celebration of this day, themed “”Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress,” CERFAM reflects its commitment by providing communities and groups of women with significant support in terms of equipment, access to information and training, with a view to improving their living conditions, those of their families and their communities.


The Regional Centre of Excellence against hunger and malnutrition (CERFAM) is a centre specialised in knowledge management, technical assistance, and south-south cooperation, created in 2019 by the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP) to accelerate progress toward ending hunger and malnutrition on the continent.

Embedded within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, CERFAM identifies, documents, promotes and disseminates good practices and lessons learned while facilitating the provision of technical expertise and capacity building to support the implementation of good practices through South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC).

The Centre aims to bring together all initiatives in the field of nutrition, home-grown school feeding (HGSF), community resilience, and value chain optimization with a focus on post-harvest losses in a synergy of action with relevant stakeholders.

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