As the world’s population has continued to grow at unprecedented rates, expected to reach and surpass 7 billion people later this month, the advancement of agricultural and economic growth stands out as a major factor in ensuring the supply and availability of food in the years to come. Since women represent the majority of farm workers in developing countries, addressing their needs and promoting their inclusion in decision-making is of utmost importance. In a new policy document published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Catherine Bertini, the formal head of the World Food Programme, draws attention to the relevant role of young girls living in the rural areas of developing countries in securing the well-being of the future generations.
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LONDON, 10 October 2011 (IRIN) – Catherine Bertini, the former head of the World Food Programme is beating a drum for teenage girls, especially those girls who live in rural areas of developing countries. “These girls have incredible potential, she says, “to spur agricultural growth and economic growth, if only they are part of policy, if only they are part of decision-making, if only they are part of the priorities that governments and donors set in their work.”
Bertini has led a team from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in writing a policy document called Girls Grow: a Vital Force in Rural Economies, which urges far more attention to the needs of these adolescents, not just because of justice or fairness, but also because it is crucial for the world’s food supply.
She points out that the world is going to need an estimated 70 percent more food by 2050; Africa and Asia are going to have to become much more productive. And since in many developing countries it is the women who are the farmers, the girls of today will have to make this happen. Unless they grow up educated, healthy and confident, the world will face a hungry future. “So if this is a priority,” she says, “we must make the people doing it a priority as well.”
Alongside her at the launch of the report was Nafis Sadik, former executive director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), who spoke with passion about the girls and young women she had known in her long career as a gynaecologist, especially in her own country, Pakistan. What pains her most is the girls’ low status and their powerlessness, even in the decisions that most affect their own lives – whom to marry, when to marry, when to have children. “Religious and cultural attitudes to girls mean that decisions must be dictated by men, or by the whole family. Only she herself is excluded.”
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