The Korean Women’s Peasant Association (KWPA), founded in 1989, is a national organization of women farmers based in Seoul, South Korea. A key tenet of food sovereignty is an end to violence against women. The industrial food system has resulted in structures and systems that harm women, in ways ranging from the devaluation of women’s work feeding their families to corporate patenting of seeds developed over generations by women farmers to lower wages or forced labor. South Korea is a male-dominated society and a highly industrialized country, with less than seven percent of the population employed in agriculture. Farmlands are quickly making way for growing cities, the government has signed far-reaching free trade agreements and corporations are taking over the agricultural industry. In this context, the 2012 Food Sovereignty Prize recognizes the Korean Women’s Peasant Association for promoting food sovereignty, women’s rights and the survival of small-scale Korean farmers.
KWPA is a powerful force from the local level to the international. On the global stage, the KWPA first tried negotiations as part of the 2003 and 2005 World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings and the free trade agreements with the United States and the European Union. When negotiation attempts failed, it led protests against the WTO and the free trade agreements, in the name of protecting the livelihoods of South Korean peasants. Nationally, KWPA, alongside the Korean Peasants League and over a hundred other organizations, created the National Campaign Task Force, aimed at defending food sovereignty throughout South Korea. Locally, KWPA runs hands-on training programs: Our Sisters Garden links women farmers and local consumers to ensure a sustainable and healthy food supply, while preserving the rights of women peasants; Native Seed Campaign focuses on native seed preservation in farming communities. Through their efforts and programs at all levels, the women of KWPA have turned challenges into strengths in their fight for their rights, the rights of their neighbors and the rights of all who eat and produce food.