NEW YORK -- Removing an enormous bias against the women of Africa is the target of a new petition being launched by development agency Self Help Africa today.
The Change Her Life campaign aims to highlight the "raw deal" for women in Africa, who do up to 80% of all farm work on the continent, but get as little as 5% of available support, such as tools, advice, seeds, credit and training.
Self Help Africa is calling on members of the public to sign the petition at www.changeherlife.org. The petition urges Western governments to guarantee women a specific portion of international agricultural aid.
"This is not about asking for more money," said Martha Hourican of Self Help Africa. "It's about doing more with the money we have. These are tough budgetary times, so we want aid to be more effective and this is a clear way to achieve that." Studies have shown that if African women farmers receive the same support as their male counterparts, food production increases by 20%. That can be achieved with the stroke of a pen.
"There is no other section of society on earth which is so marginalized, yet so productive," said Ms. Hourican. "Women do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to growing food in Africa, but their role and value is completely unrecognized."
"Governments in the West spend hundreds of millions of euro each year on trying to develop agriculture throughout Africa. The women who actually work the fields are missing out on this support," Hourican said. If the public gets behind this campaign, the government will be encouraged to reserve a portion of funding for women.
In supporting the campaign, increasing women's incomes in the developing world had a major benefit for children's health, education, and family welfare. Data shows that women who earn an extra dollar spend almost all of it on their children's health and education.
Signatures will be presented later this year to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The global petition will also be presented to Irish, UK and EU development ministers.