My research looks at how the urbanization of poverty is resulting in growing numbers of people with weak access to nutritious food. This is despite nutritious food being readily available in local markets. My chapter “Women’s Rights, Food Entitlements, and Governance in Urban Uganda” in the book Expanding Perspectives on Human Rights in Africa, is a case study of Ugandan women and highlights how governance challenges and interventions vary by place, and thus needed interventions are very different in different settings.
It is important not to understand the poor as an undifferentiated whole, but as people with different needs and experiences. My focus on the various experiences and needs of food insecure urban women, including the differences among Urban Ugandan women, works to stress this.
My analysis is informed by the work of Amartya Sen who has made enormous contributions to the understanding of rights, including women’s rights, and hunger. Building on his work, my chapter argues Uganda’s urban governance is strongly influenced by the global governance agenda of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and international donor priorities, and these have not yet substantively recognized that access, or in Sen’s language entitlements, to food in urban settings is key. Amartya Sen has had an enormous influence on the United Nations, for example developing the measures used for gender inequality, human development, and multidimensional poverty. Given this, I was surprised by how little his rights-based work on food entitlements has informed the global policy support of the United Nations and its partners. Not only with the Sustainable Development Goals, which were formed as part of a political and collaborative approach, but also with the support the UN provides to help nations like Uganda create national urban policies. Almost every country in last decade has created a National Urban Policy – a major policy document intended to map out how they will address rapid urbanization.
The solution to urban food security does not lie in producing more food, for example with urban agriculture. In Uganda, there is plenty of food, and food insecure women are the dominant group involved in food retail, in the informal sector, but often they cannot afford to consume it. What the urban poor need are employment opportunities, incomes, secure housing and protected rights.
My next steps in this research are to assess how the co-productive strategies that Uganda is undertaking with slum dwellers federations in multiple urban centres are affecting food access for women and other marginalized groups. These strategies allow for the urban poor to articulate their own priorities, so it holds promise to benefit food insecure women and others.
My article provides insight into the problem of global hunger and human rights in Africa. There is not a single answer to this problem, so there are many people with interests and involvement in Uganda, women’s rights, urbanization, tenancy rights, social protection, and informal employment who might find this research interesting and useful. Expanding Perspectives on Human Rights in Africa brings together these issues in one book and I am happy to contribute my research to this compendium.
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