International Bulletin - Spring 1997
NGO Working Group on Nutrition
Special Committee of International NGOs on Human Rights (Geneva)
Women are the prime caretakers of the environment as well as being responsible worldwide for half the world's food production, whether as farmers, agricultural workers, in me food industry or in their homes and gardens.
Whilst environmental degradation affects women throughout their life cycle, rural women are particularly vulnerable to its economic consequences, when they are confronted by landloss due to desertification, loss of fuel, lack of available and safe water, degradation of coastal waters and air contamination. They all have a direct effect on household food security.
In 1992 UNCED raised environmental concerns to the top of the UN Agenda. A burgeoning world population and the increasing evidence of the environment on food production makes these issues even more dramatic. Recent major UN Conferences, the IPCD, the Copenhagen Social Summit, HABITAT and the World Food Summit, all demonstrate the interrelationship of nutrition and the environment.
Last year's World Food Summit calls for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources - land, water and forests because food security depends on the sustainable management of arable land, fish, forests and wildlife The Summit also called for the production and use of culturally appropropriate, traditional and under-utilized food crops.
Yet inspite of UNCED and the other UN Conferences, the global environment continues to worsen. Household food security is threatened more and more by the effects of the environment. Adequate and safe water will be a key factor and could even become a major crisis for many people in the next century. The need to increase agricultural production with the use of pesticides and fertilisers must be balanced with the advantages of ecological and organic farming.
Although the technology and knowledge are available to address global environment degradation, government structures and solidarity are too weak to make the progress required.
NGOs have identified the following as priority issues for action:
- The use of renewable sources of energy and imporved energy efficiency
- Development of a global plan of action on water
- Appropriate and environmentally sound technologies, to be applied worldwide, and which could greatly reduce the use of natural resources, waste and pollution
- Combatting desertification to preserve the biggest surface of arable land.
Article 14 of the 1979 CEDAW (Convention on all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) states
"States parties shall take into account the particular problems faced by rural women, and the significant roles which they play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non-monetized sectors of the economy, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of this Convention to women in rural areas.
States parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development, and in particular shall ensure women rights"
Governments need to put policies into practice to preserve the environment, and give women the means to play their rightful role as caretakers of the environment.
Therefore the INGO members of the Working Groups on Nutrition, in Geneva and Rome make the following recommendations:
- We urge the Commission on the Status of Women, in their role as monitoring body of CEDAW to take the appropriate steps to ensure that Governments implement Article 14, sub paragraphs 1 and 2, (a) to (h) which ensure rural womens equal rights.
- We urge that in the implementation of CEDAW, the CSW monitors Government policy and legislation to see they grant equal access for women and men to natural resources, the decision making process at all levels, land rights, ownership, credit and
- We recommend that disaggregated data are established in order to be able to better assess the situation of rural women and the environment inheritance rights, appropriate training and agricultural management
- We encourage the reconversion of a certain proportion of funds generated by debt reduction for the poorest countries to national food production, which is carried out in many such countries mainly by women, who must be supported by specific projects and programmes.
Healthy food, clean water and pure air are preconditions for the UN Goal of Health For All They can only be achieved by instituting sustainable strategies for the protection of the environment. And last but not least, mothers as childbearers, are the first preservers of a healthy and environmentally sound future.
Sources: UNEP Global Environment Outlook World Food Summit Declaration and Plan of Action. March 1997, Statement for the UN Commission Status of Women, New York
Last Modified: June 05, 2010