International WomenThis is a guest post authored by Ashley Evans, a graduate of Loyola College of Law with an interest in international agricultural law related to trade:

It’s not easy to be a woman in the agricultural trade business – their key role should be recognized and supported.

International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated March 8th, provides an opportunity to recognize the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world! To me, this means honoring and underscoring the important work that women do globally to enhance their own livelihoods and that of their communities.  I wholeheartedly believe that when the unique work that women do is valued in their communities, it can be supported in a way that benefits the entire world.

Women play a big role in the development of sustainable agricultural supply chains. 

Much of the value that women provide in global supply chains is overlooked, unappreciated, and undervalued. This is especially true regarding women’s roles within the agricultural supply chain.

Globally, women play critical roles in engaging communities, farming, and selling that enable the sustainability of agricultural supply chains. According to the World Farmers’ Organization, women comprise 43% of the world’s agricultural labor force, and up to 80% of the agricultural labor force in some countries. More information is available in the FAO’s regional report on gender and food security.

Although women make up a large portion of the global agricultural labor force, it has been documented that historically, a great deal of disparity exists concerning the way men and women are supported in global agricultural farming work.  A recent report by the World Bank Group identified specific disparity among opportunities for men and women in global agribusiness. Constraints on women for producing agricultural goods, fewer access points to storage and container mechanisms at harvest, and lack of access to financing are specific hindrances to women seeking to establish themselves in global agricultural supply networks. The full report is available at IFC Gender Agribusiness Report 2016.

It is important to understand that these disparities exist. Then, we can recognize that women provide the same or greater value than men when provided opportunities to support themselves and their communities through this work.

Women play a unique role in their communities related to sustainable agricultural supply chains.

When women’s roles in the agricultural supply chain are undervalued, it hinders opportunities for women to professionally advance. It also makes it more difficult for women, often acting as primary caretakers, to provide for their homes and communities. The National Women in Agriculture Association is a US based non-profit that seeks to underscore the importance of women’s roles in the agricultural supply chain by recognizing their unique contributions in advancing their communities through practices supported by sustainable agriculture.  You can read more about the National Women in Agriculture Association.

Recognizing women’s roles in the agricultural supply chain is valuable to companies as well. Companies such as the chocolate manufacturer, MARS, Inc. have recognized the critical role that women play, and have begun to create specific programs to underscore the value that has been recognized. Learn how Mars Incorporated has taken on this charge.

Especially on IWD, it is important to recognize, honor, and celebrate the important role of women in the development of sustainable agriculture and along all parts of the agricultural food chain and global commerce. Supporting and valuing women’s unique role in global development enhances women’s ability to positively impact their own lives and the lives of those in their communities.