By Avy Maselwa

Shining the spotlight on rural women, food and poverty eradication

With just the words, “finish your food, children are starving in Africa”, the dispute between my parents and I where food was concerned was eternally over. I remained confused for years to come about “Africa” being made to seem far away from my home in Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. And more importantly how finishing my food would help other hungry children.

The one truth continues to be that the age old adage that has coaxed children world over into finishing their food is a reality. Indeed, there are people in the world who do not have access to food.

Over the next few days we will observe some key dates: International Day of Rural Women (15 October), World Food Day (16 of October) and the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October).

However, the issue is no longer just about food scarcity, but also about how the poorest communities (which are disproportionately African) have to contend with the impact of climate and environmental change on methods of food production.

Rural women take the lead in food production

International Day of Rural Women is aimed at recognising and enhancing the importance of rural women in agricultural and economic development. The general consensus is that rural women often take the leading role in food production and the image of a rural woman is never divorced from labour and in particular labour that yields communal food.

Food deprivation and poverty

In South Africa, the increasing limitation on the ability of poorer communities, especially rural communities to rely on subsistence farming, has led to a larger and more absolute reliance of people on social welfare for access to basic foods and often times, this is hardly enough to sufficiently feed whole families.

However food deprivation is just one consequence of poverty. People are stripped of their dignity when they are unable to access means of survival like adequate water and sanitation, education, employment and generally global and local citizenship rights which ultimately take material shape in economic terms.

The International Day for Eradication of Poverty is more than just a call for empathy from those who are more privileged.

So what happens next?

It is primarily a space for engagement in an effort to break the cycle of poverty and ultimately influence global policy on the needs of the poor. Importantly, the voices of the poor need to be given the majority weight in this discussion, because no one better understands the needs of the poor better than the poor themselves.