WOMEN AND FOOD N.ETW OR
THE FIRST SIX YEAR
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WOMEN AND FOOD
THE IMAGES: A mother nursing her baby.. .African Women rhythmically pounding grain... aRussian
woman driving a tractor... a line of women transplanting rice.., a mother cooking dinner while her children study...
the milkmaid... the peasant woman preserving food to last through the winter... the dinner party hostess... the
migrant laborer in the field with her children.., the marketwomen, bargaining shrewdly... the housewife at the
supermarket... the grandmother baking forfamily celebrations...farm women cookingfor harvesters...
all over the world... women nourishing others.
MYTH AND REALITY: The image of a woman wnnowing grain is a metaphor for our task: sep-
arating myth from reality. The Network has undertaken to collect Information from every possible source, to sift out
the most valuable, and to share it with others. Because women and food are so profoundly linked to humankind most
elemental experience, it is natural that mythology surrounds their relationship. Women's work has been romanticized,
emotionalized, invisibilized; but until recently, it has not been systematically studied. The new scholarship about women
has added significantly to our knowledge about what women do in food systems, and what difference it makes. Women
are major contributors to agricultural production in all regions of the world. According to the latest census data and
labor force analysis (Dixon 1982) the proportion of women in paid and unpaid agricultural labor force world wide is
42%. For Sub-Saharan Africa the average is 46%, for North Africa and the Middle East 31%, for Asia 45%. Some
women participate in the paid labor force while many additional women and girls work as unpaid labor in family food
production or cash cropping. Many are also responsible for their own crops such as vegetables, poultry, small animals,
dairying and tree crops. In addition to their work as food producers, women do much of the world's food processing,
preserving, marketing and cooking. They do indeed nourish others. The images reflect a complex reality.
The Network began with the Tucson Conference
on Women and Food at the University of Arizona
in January 1978. 250 diverse and articulate indi-
viduals came from 20 countries to participate and
to recommend increased attention to women's
roles in world food systems. The open dialogue
between persons with very different points of view
led to determination that the exchanges continue.
Proceedings were published and widely circulated.
Attention was turned to influencing the new Title
XII programs which were to involve American
Universities in large scale agricultural assistance
overseas. The Network proposed and orga-
nized training workshops for Title XII personnel
in Washington in the summer of 1978, and again
in October 1980. Funding was obtained for infor-
mational mailings, consultations and visitations
to support trainees as they returned to their cam-
puses. Documents were collected and organized.
As the Network expanded, linkages were rein-
forced with international members and institutions.
Since 1981 a Newsletter has shared information in
ever widening circles. The central effort continues;
to link knowledge and action.
From 250 people who attended the Tucson Con-
ference, the Network has expanded to include
more than 2000 members in 49 countries. Mem-
bership lists are organized in such a way that it is
possible to direct targeted mailings to members
with specific interests and to put members in con-
tact with one another easily Such referral is a
constant activity of the Network. Members are
a mix of women and men, practitioners and
researchers, in North America and overseas
including- all AID Missions... all University Title
XII officers... over 90 PVO's and foundations...
personnel in over 100 American and 30 over-
seas universities... staff of international develop-
ment institutions such as the CIP in Peru, CIAT in
Colombia, [RRI in the Philippines, IFPRI, CIGAR
and the World Bank in Washington, the Asian Veg-
etable Center in Taiwan, the National Council of
Applied Economic Research India. and the
National Institute of Nutrition in Mexico... staff of
ministries of agriculture or planning in Africa, Asia,
Europe and North America... women's bureaus in
Lesotho, Upper Volta, Swaziland, Tanzania, Mall,
Senegal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Pakistan.
Training has been an important information shar-
ing strategy since our beginnings at the Tucson
Conference. Two Title XII training conferences in
1978 and 1980 were supplemented by support to
the training activities of others, including presenta-
tions at 23 professional conferences and training
workshops in the United States as well as at the
mid-decade conference in Copenhagen, the ECA,
in Addis, and ESAMI in Arusha. The Network also
co-sponsored with EPOC the Wingsspread Con-
ference on American Farm Women, and with
MUCIA early meetings leading to the founding
of the Association for Women in International
THE TITLE XII
One of the major charges of the Network has
been to "increase the capacity of Ttle XII insti-
tutions involved in international work to better
integrate women into developing agricultural econ-
omies' To this end the Network organized and
directed two major Washington training sessions
for Title XII personnel and participated in the plan-
ning and execution of four regional and 14 campus
level workshops across the country. Network per-
sonnel prepared three major reports and 6 shorter
briefing memos for BIFAD under various funding
Between 1979 and 1982 the project director also
served as liaison between AID/WID and the BIFAD
staff, attending 35 BIFAD Board meetings and
numerous smaller problem solving meetings. With
the appointment of women and development per-
sons to the BIFAD staff and on many Title XII cam-
puses, attention to the issues is now increasingly
institutionalized, and the Network serves primarily
a resource function.
Since its inception the Network has produced,
collected and disseminated documents. Six
major documents, and more than 30 shorter
reports, speeches, resource lists, information
summaries and briefing memos for special audi-
ences have been written by Network personnel
including Women and Deuelopment Action Pro-
gram (1979) for BIFAD, The Role of Women in
Food Production and Distribution Systems in the
Sahel (1978) for AID/AF/SFWA, and Strategies for
In the six years of its existence the Network has
distributed over 50,000 documents. Of these
16,200 were newsletters, 7.237 items were in
response to requests, some 10,000 were in 35
targeted mailings to specific audiences, and the
remainder were distributed at conferences, work-
shops and training sessions. Since 1982 there has
been a charge for documents, in 1984 a charge for
the Newsletter will be initiated.
The Network has document exchange arrange-
ments with many international research centers
including FAO Rome, ICRISAT, the Indian Council
of Social Science Research, IDRC Canada, the
Institute for Development Studies Sussex, 10
Geneva, Women's Development Research Center-
Delhi, the Population Council, the International
Women's Tribune ECLA, ECA, and the Insti-
tute for Women's Studies in the Arab World. In addi-
tion it receives documents from many individual
researchers and practitioners.
Network personnel have made presentations,
exchanged visitations or participated in training
activities organized by a number of international
institutions including the African Research and
Training Center for Women of the ECA at Addis,
the Eastern and Southern Management Institute in
Arusha, the African Association for the Advance-
ment of Agriculture, Women's Bureaus in Lesotho,
Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the Mid-Decade Con-
ference for Women in Copenhagen, the Union of
Malian women in Bamako, the faculty of Home
Economics, Bogor University and the FAO office in
Rome. Personnel from these and other institutions
have also visited Network offices. The Network
has had more limited exchange with UNICEF, the
UN Voluntary Fund for Women, UNDP, the UN
Secretarial and the UN International Research
and Training Center for Women. Many individuals
overseas request specific information, documents
and assistance from the Network Such requests
are honored as fully as possible.
For further information or to Join the