Not only do women suffer the most from global problems, such as the current crisis arising from the surge in food prices, but they can also contribute the most to its solutions, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has said.
In a keynote address to the Women's Foreign Policy Group in New York, on May Day, Ms. Migiro pointed out that the world is faced with an "unprecedented" rise of food prices, plunging many developing countries into a crisis that threatens to thwart efforts to achieve the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"The advances we have seen in achieving this collective vision for a better world could all be undermined by rising food prices," she said.
Highlighting some of the effects of the crisis, Ms. Migiro noted that families that do not have enough to eat are being forced to make terrible choices, such as deciding between food or medicine, or choosing whether to send their children to school or to the fields where they might earn money to help the family.
"And it's women who are hit the hardest," she said. "The development emergency engulfing whole communities is taking its heaviest toll on women."
The crisis has prompted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to form a new UN Task Force, bringing together heads of UN bodies along with international financial institutions, experts and leading global authorities to address the issue. He has also pointed out that the crisis offers an opportunity to re-invest in agriculture in Africa.
"Helping African farmers can have a decisive impact on women's lives," Ms. Migiro said, noting that for the most part it is women - who make up 80 per cent of Africa's farmers - that are out there under the hot sun, tending the fields and harvesting crops.
"But the same women hit hardest by the food crisis are ready to hit back," she added, stressing that with the right support, they can move their communities from subsistence farming to commercial farming and even industry. This is crucial not only for the continent but for the world, which is just not producing as much food as it consumes.
"We need to do much more. to empower women. Women can drive the Green Revolution in Africa. They hold the key to breaking out of the food crisis; to educating the young; to peace, progress and prosperity," the Deputy Secretary-General stated.