GFAR blog, Research in society

Woman: Life at the Sharp Edge


I have attended a number of side events during the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), but this one was different. The room a bit quiet, I could see more women than men. It was almost impossible to hold back the tears rolling down my cheek to hear the burden our mothers and sisters are carrying. It seems no one cares much. The discussion was on “Women’s roles and rights in situations of food crises, famines and conflict.”

According to the 2017 report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World: Building resilience for peace and food security, when the state, socio-economic systems and/or local communities do not have the capacities to prevent, cope with or manage situations, the worst affected are generally the poorest and most vulnerable sector of the society—women and children. The speakers have emphasised that women are already the poorest and most under-resourced sectors of the society in times of peace, to then be in a conflict is a double or triple burden.

The report further looks at gender dimensions. It argues that it is important to assess how conflict affects food security and nutrition, as men and women often have different roles and responsibilities in securing adequate food and nutrition at the household level. Conflict tends to alter gender roles and social norms. Men and boys are most likely to be engaged in fighting. The engagement of men in conflict puts greater responsibility in the hands of women in sustaining the livelihood of the household, including access to food, nutrition and health care for household members. Conflict s are mostly characterized by sexual violence mostly targeted at women. Such violence and trauma not only cause harm to women but also tend to affect their ability to support their families.

Rural women often have less access to resources and income, which make them vulnerable and hence more likely to resort to riskier coping strategies. There a is setswana saying mosadi o tshwara thipa kafa bogaleng which literally translates into a mother holds a knife at the sharp edge. It means women will strive very hard to fend for the family, especially for the children, even when it puts her in danger. These strategies may affect their health, which in turn is detrimental to the food security of the entire household as food production and the ability to prepare food decrease with illness.

Read the full post on the CFS blog here.

This post covers the #CFS44 side event, “Women’s roles and rights in situations of food crises, famines and conflict.”

Blogpost by Kenanao Moabi, #CFS44 Social Reporter – (

Photo Credit: Mohamed Abdiwahab

This post is part of the live coverage during the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, a social media project supported by GFAR. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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