Update: there is growing mainstream recognition of the problem. Via Rawstory.
Women are roughly 50% of the world’s population, do two thirds of the work, but earn 10% of the income and control just 1% of the world’s wealth.
The price of food everywhere is going up. The major rises in agricultural yield came about because of mechanization and petrochemical fertilizers, both of which become more expensive when energy prices go up. Worse, politically attractive but resource-stupid forays into ethanol have pushed the prices of some food crops higher.
The New York Times this week said that in Peru, women urge action on food prices:
More than 1,000 women protested outside Peru’s Congress on Wednesday, banging empty pots and pans to demand that the government do more to counter rising food prices, which are squeezing the poor worldwide.
The women, some toting small children on their hips, run food kitchens, known as eating halls, for the poor.
… the women say they are struggling to provide enough food and want the government to increase financial aid so they can cover their costs.
Hundreds of thousands of people rely on the eating halls each day in Peru, where about 12 million people, or 42 percent of the population, live in poverty.
The rising cost for basic foods sank President Alan García’s approval rating to 26 percent this month, the lowest level since he took office in 2006.
“Food prices keep on rising, and the government doesn’t pay attention to the eating halls,” said María Bozeta, director of one of three associations that represent eating halls in Lima.
All modern famines are failures of entitlement, not of food production. There’s enough food, but some people due to poverty or other barriers cannot get it. That’s the conclusion of Bengali genius and Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen, and the subject of his 1981 book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation — but the conclusion will not be surprising to anyone who knows the history of the Irish potato famine, when due to English policies, Ireland was a net exporter of food, keeping food prices high, while its poor starved to death because their own potato crops failed and they could not afford to buy food.
If, as seems inevitable, energy prices continue to rise, the result will not just be an increased cost to drive or transport goods. The result will be that women with dependent children living in poverty around the world cannot afford to eat. This world, taken as a whole, is wealthy enough to apply a number of solutions to that. But history suggests that women are and remain so disempowered globally that nothing much will be done.
The interplay between energy, food and poverty is complex (for example, food charity can depress local farmers’ income, preventing some hard working folks from moving up out of poverty by their own hard work); and a book-length treatment is both beyond my expertise and beyond the scope of this medium. So I’ll leave it like this: when talking about energy policy, let’s not just talk about how and where folks in wealthy countries drive, or power our televisions. Let’s remember that the policy choices that affect these things also affect whether a mother of four young children living on $300 a year, or even less, can feed herself and her kids, and let’s insist that the policy issue be framed to include her.
*The simplicity of the title is powerful, and I picked it before I found ABW’s post, where she apparently came to the same conclusion.
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