UN conference food for thought

University of Otago postgraduate student Ioanna Katiforis recently attended a UN symposium on the...
University of Otago postgraduate student Ioanna Katiforis recently attended a UN symposium on the status of women, with the main emphasis being on poverty. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A United Nations conference provided plenty of food for thought for University of Otago postgraduate student Ioanna Katiforis.

Ms Katiforis, who is completing her doctorate in nutrition studies, attended the 68th annual Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York recently as part of a delegation with Graduate Women Otago.

It was Ms Katiforis’ first visit to the city.

More than 13,000 people attended the commission, which featured representatives from hundreds of government and non-government organisations.

"It was so inspiring seeing all the people from those at the high level to those working at the grassroots.

"I got to meet the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres; that was definitely a highlight for me."

The theme for this year’s commission was "accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective".

In 2020, global poverty rose for the first time in decades, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions and war, unsustainable levels of debt and a cost-of-living crisis.

Ms Katiforis said there was some crossover with her own research into food poverty and insecurity.

"It was a real learning experience.

"In the presentations, there was a lot of focus on the issue of unpaid care and domestic work, inadequate parental leave and struggles to get full-time work.

"A lot of my research looked at the effects of access to food and time had on families.

"We need to ensure maternity leave is adequate, and that care is valued — women’s nutrition status can be affected by lack of access to food."

She wanted to focus her next research on how food access affects families, she said.

"My doctorate research focused on infants. I want to research how food insecurity affects everyone at the table.

"We need to really get to the root causes of it to address it. Facilities such as foodbanks are just band-aid solutions."

She hoped to attend — and help make a presentation — at the 69th annual commission next year.

"It’s an amazing environment of learning; so many people are doing wonderful things."