Advocates for African Food Security: Lessening the Burden for Women
The Baha'i International Community, convenor of the "Advocates for African Food Security: lessening the burden for women," welcomes the opportunity to once again address the 35th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The "Advocates" was formed following a UNIFEM-initiated symposium on African women farmers held concurrently with the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1986 on the Critical Economic Situation in Africa. The Advocates' objective is to stimulate action to maintain a global focus on the critical role of women in all the activities that countries feel are necessary for achieving full food security. Membership in the Advocates has expanded from the fourteen founding organizations to over thirty. It is a unique group in that it includes NGOs (non-governmental organizations) working in cooperation with representatives of United Nations bodies, governments and intergovernmental organizations working together on an equal status basis. Activities focus on practical ways to lessen the burden of women in the areas of food, health, water, and energy in order to improve the quality of their lives generally and to free their potential to produce crops, not only for their families, but for national food security.
At the Commission's 34th session, the Advocates reported its involvement in the United Nations Conference on Popular Participation, February, 1990, at Arusha, Tanzania. We note that popular participation increasingly impacts on development in Africa. More and more people are demanding to be involved in solving their own problems. The Advocates are proud that women were active in building the momentum that started at the Conference in Arusha.
"Women's Initiatives in African Food Security: the Link between Micro Activities and Macro Policies" was the theme of the Fifth Annual Symposium of the Advocates held at UN Headquarters, 15 November, 1990. Keynote speaker, Dr. Gloria Nikoi, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ghana, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Akuapem Rural Bank and Vice President of the National Association of Rural Banks of Ghana, dramatized the reality that women's initiatives in African food security are affected by both the national and international economic environment. Over 200 persons attended the symposium, listened to challenging speakers, sought more information, made suggestions for future actions and agreed that the Advocates should make a strong contribution to the final review of the United Nations Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development (UNPAAERD), by urging that the impact of the role of the African woman farmer should be assessed along with other issues.
We are pleased to report that over the past year, we have continued to strengthen networking with women and NGOs in Africa. The Advocates exchanged ideas with African participants in the Women's Alternative Economic Summit, which took place at the time of the Special Session of the General Assembly on Economic Matters. Further, through the financial assistance of the Advocates and the UNPAAERD Secretariat, two distinguished African women, Dr. Gloria Nikoi and Mrs. Bisi Ogunleye, played key roles at the Advocates 5th Symposium in New York. Mrs. Ogunleye, National Coordinator, Country Women's Association of Nigeria (COWAN), dramatized the African perspective of people's initiatives as a unifying force in development. Following her presentation, Dr. Nikoi claimed membership in the Advocates and committed her support to the work on behalf of farm women.
Further, we note very warmly the historic invitation received recently from the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to participate in their symposium with the theme "African Women, Food Self-Sufficiency and Africa's Economic Recovery."
The Advocates take this opportunity to support the efforts of UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women), UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund), The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), and the Organization of African Unity, as well as other agencies pushing for a national and regional policy on food security. We urge the Commission on the Status of Women to promote the design of national food policies which will incorporate the contribution of African woman farmers in the various steps of the food chain. The objective, in the view of the Advocates, must be that ultimately sufficient food will be locally produced for the people of Africa.
In preparation for the End-Term Review of the UN Programme of Action for African Economic Recovery and Development (UNPAAERD) in September, 1991, the Advocates is surveying individuals and NGOs regarding progress made during UNPAAERD toward the achievement of sustainable food security for Africa. The results of the survey will be circulated to governments and NGOs to enrich the ongoing thinking on future policies for food in Africa.
The Advocates take the opportunity once again to urge the Commission:
- to support African women's perspectives in dialogues among UN agencies, governments and NGOs in the search for improved methods of popular participation in African recovery and food security;
- to ensure active participation of women in policy formulation and provide appropriate channels for information exchange in all aspects of food security, including land tenure, water, energy, environment and health;
- to encourage men to recognize and support the valuable contribution of African women farmers to food security and impress upon them that food security is the business of everyone in the community;
- to urge UN agencies, governments and NGOs to recognize and utilize grassroots knowledge and traditional methods when introducing appropriate and new technology;
- to urge governments to include the actual work done by African women farmers in statistical reporting for the GNP;
- to identify, advocate and urge the incorporation of environmentally sound policy strategies which promote sustainable development in Africa. In this respect, we take note of preparations for the second World Conference on the Environment in 1992 and urge the Commission to insure that the concerns of women farmers are taken into account;
- to identify local African organizations working with and for women farmers and support their efforts; and
- to press elected representatives and policymakers to favor those programmes that directly lessen the burdens of the African woman farmer.
Finally, we urge the Commission on the Status of Women to encourage the adoption by the United Nations of appropriate measures that will continue to address the African economic crisis beyond UNPAAERD (1986-1990).
The following organizations are founding members of the "Advocates for African Food Security: lessening the burden for women": African-American Institute; Baha'i International Community; Church Women United; CODEL, Inc.; Committee of NGOs on the UN Decade for Women; Institute of Cultural Affairs; International Women's Tribune Centre; Lutheran World Federation; Lutheran World Relief, Inc.; National Council of Women of the US; Oxfam-America; Save The Children Foundation; Trickle Up Program; World Council of Churches (CCIA).
Serving the Advocates in an advisory capacity are staff of the Non-Governmental Liaison Service of the United Nations; the United Nations Development Programme; the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women; and the Organization of African Unity.