On behalf of the United States, I want to thank the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Program, and the International Fund for Agriculture Development for continuing their shared tradition of celebrating International Women’s Day.
To some, it may not be clear why food and agriculture agencies would celebrate women. But when it comes to growing, harvesting, storing, and preparing the world’s food, women carry a heavy responsibility. In developing countries, women comprise nearly half of the agricultural labor force—and more than half in some countries. Yet few women own the land they farm, and few have access to markets, training, or credit for buying livestock, seeds, and equipment. By increasing our support for women farmers, we can increase food production; improve nutrition, health, and education; help women earn higher incomes; and support broader economic growth.
This is why women are at the core of President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative and why the UN food and agriculture agencies are incorporating women into their policies and programs. We need to keep this momentum going, to help more women farmers gain equal access to land, technologies, and financial services… and to help women worldwide receive the support they need to become leaders in agriculture and full partners in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Today, we celebrate past achievements in the global march toward equality. But this is also a day for looking ahead. The work underway in Rome and elsewhere must continue, so that future generations of women and girls can have an even greater impact on the world, wherever they live and wherever they work—including, and especially, in the fields.