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Gender and Poverty: perspectives from South Asia focusing on women agricultural workers

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Haris Gazdar's presentation at a Special Event of the Second Committee of United Nations General Assembly on 'Measuring women’s work and implications for poverty analysis in South Asia.' The session was moderated by Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Under-Secretary-General, Executive Director of UN Women). The panelists included Ms. Kinnon Scott (Senior Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank), Dr. Shahra Razavi (Chief, Research amd Data Section, UN Women), Dr. Agnes Quizumbing (Senior Research Fellow, International Food and Policy Research Institute), Dr. Magdalena Sepulveda (Previous Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Mexico), and Mr. Haris Gazdar.

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Gender and Poverty: perspectives from South Asia focusing on women agricultural workers

  1. 1. Gender and poverty – perspective from South Asia focusing on women agricultural workers Haris Gazdar
  2. 2. Women’s work in agriculture and nutrition – perspective on poverty • South Asia (including Pakistan) steady decline in money-metric poverty rates (SDGs 1.1 and 1.2) • But slow/stagnant trends in hunger, food security, nutrition (SDGs 2.1, 2.2), despite progress in agriculture (SDG 2.3) • Promising progress in social protection (SDG 1.3) • Feminisation of agricultural work • Women’s work in agriculture and nutrition? • Positive: women’s consumption choices pro-nutrition • Negative: women’ energy requirements unmet • Negative: work-care time trade-off • First two – intrahousehold distribution, behind SDG 1.1 • Last one – Burden of unpaid care/domestic work (SDG 5.4)
  3. 3. Findings • High level of gender specialisation of agricultural work • Women’s work: Livestock, weeding, cotton/vegetable harvest • Women and men’s work: wheat, rice harvesting • Much higher rates of women’s work participation than measured in national data • Asking about ’work’ versus ‘activities’ • National data:‘contributory family help’ • Correlation between women’s work in intensive agricultural activities and malnutrition • Women who worked in cotton-harvesting had significantly lower BMI than others (SDG 2.1) • When they worked during pregnancy their new-borns were significantly more likely to be smaller (stunting SDG 2.2)
  4. 4. Discussion • Harsh trade-off • Good nutrition needs resources and time • Families desperately trying to provide both • Price paid by women – and through them by children • Recognition is key to start redressing • Gender inequality and poor outcomes • Low-wage, unpaid work not just poor outcomes for women, but for all • Recognition will be resisted, but has potential benefits for all • Analytical frameworks • Time and effort – not just land – as key economic resource, particularly of women • Growth strategy cannot take for granted these will be valued
  5. 5. Implications • Data • Measure women’s ‘economic’ contribution properly even if no consensus on unpaid care/domestic work • National policies/programmes • Recognise, protect, promote rights of women workers – important not only for women, but for nutrition • Global system • See clearer links, negative as well as positive, between different development goals (e.g SDGs 1, 2 and 5) • Be explicit about time and labour being economic resources (e.g. in SDG 1.4, 5A), and about who gets value from agricultural productivity (SDG 2.3)