Food insecurity.

WOMEN'S empowerment is closely associated with a country's economic development as it ensures equality and sustainability in all spheres of social life. Similarly, in a food system, gender equality and women's empowerment lead to better nutrition and food security. Following the devastating floods, food insecurity is looming large. Climate change has threatened food security and economic progress in Pakistan. A growing population, climate disasters and low agricultural yields have made it crucial to address the problem of food insecurity and undernourishment. This is only possible if serious efforts are made to close the gender gap and empower women, particularly in agriculture.

Women are central to food systems as producers, processors, wage workers, traders and consumers. Their contribution to the family is greater than men's despite vulnerable employment conditions, but the socioeconomic impact of the prevailing inequalities limits women's abilities to reduce household poverty.

Pakistan's agriculture sector contributes 18.9 per cent to GDP and employs 42.3pc of the labour force. It is estimated that over half the population lives in the rural areas and is directly dependent on agriculture. The latter, including livestock products, provides food security to millions. Pakistan is amongst the largest producers of wheat, cotton, sugarcane, rice, mangoes, dates and kinnow. Yet, it faces a huge food crisis because of a growing population and insufficient food productivity. Currently, Pakistan ranks 92nd out of 116 nations on the Global Hunger Index.

Gender-based inequalities affect farm production and result in a food crisis. Pakistani women's contribution to producing crops and managing livestock cannot be ignored. But despite their significant role in providing subsistence to the people, there are huge gender gaps in land ownership, accessing inputs, extension and financial services. This is exacerbated by women's low social status. Low literacy among rural women, lack of training and credit facilities, regressive cultural norms and early marriage are some factors hindering women's economic empowerment, which ultimately affects national development.

Studies prove that women's empowerment is necessary for addressing world hunger as women are central to the four pillars of food security - availability, accessibility, utilisation and stability. Poverty and women's low social status widen gender gaps and result in women's disempowerment...

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