Finnish delegation stresses gender factor in food security in ASEP-7

Finnish delegation focused on food security, on the role of women in strengthening agriculture, and on access to energy, in the ongoing Seventh Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP-7) held in Lao capital on Thursday.

“Food security does not exist until all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” Ms. Aila Paloniemi, leader of the Finnish delegation to ASEP-7 said at panel discussion on economic matters Thursday.

The ASEP-7 meeting themed “Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership for Sustainable Development” kicked off Wednesday and is to conclude Thursday.

According to the latest FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) state of the world agriculture report, women form 43 percent of the agricultural work force of developing countries. The rapid movement of men to cities or as migrant workers abroad has contributed to this increased burden on women. This comes in addition to the traditional responsibility of women for household work, child rearing and caring for the elderly, noticed Ms. Aila Paloniemi.

“Problems related to gender equality are also evident in issues concerning land ownership. In many cases, women are excluded from owning or inheriting land, and traditions and customs might prevent women from exercising their rights even when there are not legal obstacles,” said Aila Paloniemi.

The Finnish delegation chief added the right to property is essential to empower women both socially and economically. Land ownership provides collateral for additional investments in agriculture, and it provides a security net in case of sickness and old age.

“Studies have also shown that women are likely to invest their resources in the well-being of their family members, especially in their children. This contributes to the economic and social development of the whole community and future generations. Because women constitute such a large portion of the agricultural work force they also have plenty of hands on knowledge and skills required for land management,” Ms. Aila Paloniemi affirmed, ” Without control over the land they work, it is, however, difficult for them to assume responsibility for sustainability.”

According to Ms. Aila Paloniemi, the gender issue is also an important factor in addressing problems related to climate change. “Climate change also has implications for the food security of women on a more general level. The loss of crops raises the price of food and this has the most severe effect on the poorest groups of society who use most of their income on food. Women again are overrepresented among the most poor in society,” she said.

ASEP-7 holds two panel discussions on Thursday, to find solutions to the sustainable development.

For the economic matters panel, lead speakers from China, Finland, South Korea and IMF are to present reports on ensuring food security in the current situation of global climate change and on strengthening the Asia-Europe cooperation in the field of public debts for sustainable development.

For the social and environmental matters panel, lead speakers from Belgium, Indonesia and the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) will present reports on Asia-Europe partnership in increasing social participation in disaster management.

ASEP is part of partnership process between Asia and Europe and serves as a forum for inter-parliamentary contacts, exchanges and diplomacy among parliaments. It aims to promote mutual understanding among the people and countries of Asia and Europe and provide a link between parliaments of Asia and Europe and ASEM.

The first ASEP meeting was held in Strasbourg, France, in 1996. ASEP meetings are normally convened on a regular bi-annual basis alternately in Asia and in Europe before the ASEM Summit.

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