Gender gaps in food: 150 million more women went hungry than men in 2021

Over 800 million went hungry last year; Gender equality and food security directly related, says report

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 05 August 2022
The CARE report found that across 109 countries, food security goes down as gender inequality goes up. Photo: iStock

A humanitarian organisation has found the gap between men and women’s food security is growing worldwide. As many as 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021. Among them, 150 million more women were food insecure than men. 

A CARE report released August 3, 2022 highlighted a global link between gender inequality and food insecurity. It found that food security went down as gender inequality increased across 109 countries. The report based its findings on datasets and global trends.

A 2010-2011 report by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — a United Nations agency for improving food security internationally — was one of the last global studies that presented new data and connections between gender equality, women and food on a truly global scale. Much of the world’s data on gender equality overlooks questions of food security.


Source: CARE

Women have less food than men in every region in the world, The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World had found in 2022. The analysis found the gap between women and men was 8.4 times greater than in 2018, when only 18 million more women than men were food insecure.

Christine Campeau, CARE’s global advocacy director for food systems, said:

Gender equality is highly connected to food and nutrition security at a local, national, and global level. To put it simply, the more gender inequality there is in a country, the hungrier and more malnourished people are.

Read more: Morocco — a top fertiliser producer — could hold a key to the world’s food supply

Even when both men and women are technically food insecure, women often bear bigger burdens, the CARE report said In Somalia, men report eating smaller meals and women report skipping meals altogether. In Lebanon, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, 85 per cent of people reduced the number of meals they ate. At the time, 85 per cent of women were eating smaller portions, compared to only 57 per cent of men.

Nations with high gender inequality, such as Yemen, Sierra Leone and Chad, experienced the lowest food security and nutrition.

Households where women were employed and earning money or when they were directly involved in farming their food were less likely to experience food insecurity, according to CARE. 

Women are also more likely than men to live in extreme poverty, according to World Food Program USA, the food-assistance branch of the UN. This happens because women’s work is underpaid or not paid at all. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, women took on three times as much unpaid work as men.

The lack of collection and incorporation of sex-disaggregated data on global food security datasets leads global policymakers to overlook gender equality in food security solutions. 

Of 84 food policies and plans designed to address hunger released between September 2020 and December 2021, only 4 per cent refer to women as leaders who can play a role in food security. Thirty-nine per cent of those policies overlook women entirely.

Read more: Reducing food waste vital for India's food security

A 2020 report by CARE — Left Out and Left Behind — detailed how women face incredible obstacles even more than men in getting enough food during emergencies. COVID-19, which has led to food crises and a rollback in women’s rights and gender equality, has created an untenable situation for women.

Women’s equality and empowerment is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), but also integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development. 

All the SDGs depend on the achievement of Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, according to UN Women, which works for women’s human rights. Gender equality by 2030 requires urgent action to eliminate the many root causes of discrimination that still curtail women’s rights in private and public spheres.

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