A Row to Hoe

Publication Date: 

January 1, 0001

The Gender Impact of Trade Liberalization on our Food System, Agricultural Markets, and Women’s Human Rights

By Alexandra Spieldoch

This preliminary research paper fills a gap in the body of literature around food and agriculture in relation to gender. It draws together analysis of recent trends in food and agriculture from a gender perspective with the wider literature on how trade and investment have affected food security and agricultural development.

Although a number of case studies exist exploring how women have been

affected by changes in the global food system, and changes in local food production as well, few have sought to situate these case studies (and their findings) in the more global context of international trade and investment. This paper explores these linkages, pointing to the connections as well as to the need for further research to deepen our understanding of why women—more than half the world’s population and those who are overwhelmingly responsible for ensuring children

get enough to eat—must be involved in policy decisions that affect agriculture and food security.

The basis for this paper is rooted in these four points:

  • Rules for agriculture are changing.

  • Women’s long-standing traditional roles in agriculture have been largely ignored, especially by macroeconomists.

  • Women are not affected the same way as men by the changes in agriculture. Because of women’s different traditional roles, impacts on their livelihoods need to be understood.

  • Gender-blind policy making has deepened some of the traditional inequities as well as created some new ones.