Gendered Work in the Global Food Chain

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On 28 February 2017 Dr Kelly Reed, IFSTAL Education Coordinator at the University of Warwick attended a workshop which aimed to debate research on gendered work in global food chains to explore the links between food producers and consumers. It was hosted at the University and co-sponsored by the GRP on International Development, the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, the network on Connecting Research on Employment and Work, and the Institute of Advanced Study. Read her thoughts on the event below.

Gendered Work in the Global Food Chain
Tuesday 28th February 2017, University of Warwick

The workshop was kicked off by Professor Nickie Charles, Director of the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, who introduced the afternoon session and speakers. The day was divided into four talks and then a discussion section followed by a final public lecture by Prof Stephanie Barrientos on ‘Retail Shift: transforming gendered patterns of work in global value chains’.

The first talk was by Anouk Patel-Campillo, Gender Institute, LSE, discussing ‘Commodity chains, gender and agri-food production: contributions and limitations’ Here Anouk described the different Global commodity chain (GCC) criteria for analysing gender. For example, GCC 1.0 looks at the macro-micro approach to the analysis of translational economic activity and was designed to incorporate peripheral regions into the world capitalist system, making women’s work more visible. However, few empirical studies exist that reflect this analytical approach. Anouk then went on to state that it is important to define the framework being used in research, as this will have methodological implications, in other words, who is included or excluded in the data.

The next speaker was Deepa Joshi, (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University) on ‘Agriculture: what’s in it for woman?’. Deepa discussed aspects of what women did and did not do in agriculture and what data is included and excluded in the statistics reported. Deepa introduced the concept of the feminization of agriculture and what women might gain from a sector that is now no longer attractive to men. She also reminded us that it is not just about what happens at the farm but also what happens along the whole commodity chain.

Emine Erdogan, (Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick) then presented her research in a talk entitled ‘As Tomatoes Change, Families Change: Familial Labour Relations in Food Production and Processing in Turkey’. Emine told a fascinating story of the production of a particular tomato paste that included exploring family dynamics and economies. For example, up to four generations of one family are living and working on the same piece of land to produce the tomatoes, but with increased economic pressures and the rise of food factories in the countryside, many family members are also doing seasonal factory work. Women in particular are expected to work and children are left with either the mother-in-law or older daughters.

The last speaker of the session was Moya Kneafsey, (Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, Coventry University) on ‘”Alternative” food networks in developed market economies.
Are they really “alternative” when it comes to gender issues?’. Gender issues are very under researched in alternative food networks. But what are alternative food networks? Moya explains that these include farmers markets, short food chains, community projects, speciality foods etc. who want to reconnect and get back in touch with food, as well as relocate food provisioning to be more local.

The workshop was thought-provoking and both Liz Dowler, Professor Emeritus, Sociology, University of Warwick and Ben Richardson, Politics and International Studies, University of Warwick, highlighted the importance of research into gender research in the global food system. The day was concluded with a public lecture by Professor Stephanie Barrientos on ‘Retail Shift: transforming gendered patterns of work in global value chains’.

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