International Women’s Day 2021: Women’s Right to Food & Economic Power in COVID-19 and Beyond

by Jusleen Basra

Hunger and economic hardship have disproportionately affected women, despite the reality women represent 60-80% of food production in the Global South and represent 50% of food chain workers in the U.S.; during the COVID-19 pandemic the trend continues. In the United States, women lost nearly 1 million more jobs than men, and nearly 70% of the now 270 million people facing hunger worldwide are women and girls. In countries like the U.S., job loss due to an increase in caregiving responsibilities and a concentration of women in hard-hit sectors like hospitality made women especially vulnerable to food and economic insecurity.

Where working at home wasn’t an option, women had to find other means to provide for their families, oftentimes sacrificing their own meals so others could eat. Unequal pay, cultural norms and lack of healthcare in many countries have contributed to the pandemic’s overall disproportionate effect on women as well.

This International Women’s Day, learn more about just some of the incredible femme-led organizations who choose to challenge societal norms by working to support women all over the world in advocating economic power and the right to food.


Photo courtesy of AFEDES

AFEDES (Asociación Femenina para el Desarrollo de Sacatepéquez), Guatemala

Founded in 1988, AFEDES is a group of primarily Kaqchikela’ Mayan women working to achieve economic, physical and political autonomy under the principle of Utz’K’aslemal – a “life of abundance and happiness.” After struggling with chronic malnutrition and exclusion in economic and educational opportunities affecting women in their community, AFEDES aims to create a new economy and food system where Mayan women can reclaim their ancestral practices and ways of life to overcome disproportionate inequities.

AFEDES supports women with workshops in sustainable farming, weaving and community organizing to encourage female autonomy and leadership. During the pandemic, they crafted and distributed over 1,000 masks to 350 families, as well as food boxes and fresh produce to the elderly. Visit AFEDES’ website to learn more and find out how you can support.


Photo courtesy of C2C

Community to Community (C2C), Bellingham, Washington

Led by women of color, C2C believes in a democracy where rights and resources are equally accessible to all members of the community. Its leaders come from groups who understand the needs of marginalized communities and are working to ignite systemic transformation and a world guided by equity. Eco-feminism is also at the core of C2C’s work, encouraging the development of a healthier relationship between women and nature in three key areas: participatory democracy, food justice, and movement building. Their projects are community-led and hands on, including civic engagement campaigns, fundraisers, food sovereignty programs geared to support farmworkers’ rights, agroecology and more. To learn how you can get involved and read more about C2C’s work, visit their website here.


Photo courtesy of Rise and Root Farm

Rise and Root Farm, Orange County, NY

Rise and Root Farm is run by four intergenerational, multi-racial, and LGBTQ women – including co-founders Lorrie Clevenger, WhyHunger’s Co-Director of U.S. Programs and our Advisory Board Member, Karen Washington – who believe in the power of cooperative growing to heal and create a just food system. Rise and Root is committed to engaging members of the New York community in cooperative work on the farm with events and workshops, creating a welcoming space for marginalized groups. The focus is to engage as many people as possible – women as well as others – in the act of growing and cultivating fresh food, and subsequently, a life of autonomy and justice.

To support Rise and Root’s efforts to provide fresh food to surrounding communities and those in need, particularly during the pandemic, visit their website. You can learn more about Rise and Root and its founders here.


Photo courtesy of Wombyn’s Wellness Garden

Wombyn’s Wellness Garden, Portland, OR

Roberta Eaglehorse-Ortiz (Oglala Lakota/Yomba Shoshone) designed Wombyn’s Wellness Garden (WWG) as a healing space for BIPOC women, children and families. With a special focus on providing natural pregnancy and breast-feeding initiatives to Indigenous women, WWG supports the unique and individual journeys of Indigenous families in reclaiming their relationship with the Earth and evolving authentically alongside nature. At the garden, Native families can participate in traditional ceremonies and learn about medicinal healing and permaculture growing, all while building a sense of togetherness and autonomy in the community. WWG also sells the fresh produce grown by its members to the surrounding community – they even have an online shopping option, allowing them to adapt to the circumstances of the pandemic.

For more information and opportunities to support, visit WWG’s website here.


Photo courtesy of World March of Women

World March of Women, International

The World March of Women operates on an international level to connect grassroots organizations in an action-based effort to support the mobilization of women around the world. WMW is “an autonomous, multicultural, multiethnic, pluralist and independent movement” focusing on alleviating the root causes of female struggle: cultural stereotypes, inequality and discrimination that often lead to violence against women. WMW’s goal is to unite women to march towards a transformed social, political, and economic system that embraces intersectionality and diversity.

This day, March 8th, specifically serves as a day honoring and standing in action and resistance to the exploitation and hierarchies that exist at the expense of women across the globe. They’ve issued their latest international statement in this regard with hopes to build a world where  “feminist economy, solidarity, reciprocity, sovereignty and popular power” is fully realized.  Read more about WMW’s goals and specific action areas here.