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Did you know that in many parts of the world, especially in Asia and South America, women are more likely to go hungry than men? That’s despite the fact that in many countries, women do most of the agricultural work as well as being responsible for preparing food.
This inequality needs to change if we’re to achieve our mission to end global hunger. Through paid and unpaid work, women make as significant a contribution to rural economies as men, and we believe that they are central to combating and preventing world hunger. That’s why globally, this International Women’s Day, we’re emphasizing our belief that empowering women empowers humanity.
What we’re doing to promote women’s empowerment
At the World Food Programme, our work to promote women’s empowerment focuses on inclusiveness, on giving women, men, girls and boys equal access to resources and opportunities, and an equal say in the decisions that shape their world. Here are six ways we’re working to help make it happen.
1. Free school meals
Hunger prevents young girls from reaching their full potential. Our school feeding initiative helps keep girls in schools, and lowers dropout rates. School helps girls concentrate in class, allowing them to flourish into educated, empowered young women who have the capacity to become the entrepreneurs and political leaders of tomorrow.
2. Improving access to education
As well as helping girls who are already at school, we’re working hard to continue improving access to primary and secondary education. We’re reducing the gender gap by using take-home food as an incentive to families to send their daughters to school.
3. Supporting access to adequate nutrition
Keeping adolescent girls in schools gives them a better education and contributes to raising the age at which they marry or have children. It’s very important that we continue to provide food assistance to pregnant women and nursing mothers as well as to children under five and adolescent girls, because we know that healthy, educated women have the potential to ensure that the next generation of girls and boys enjoys better food security and better nutrition.
4. Putting women in charge of food distribution
We’ve found that in the hands of women, food is far more likely to reach the mouths of the family members who need it most. We try to ensure that as many women as men represent the community’s needs for food assistance, by giving them a voice on food distribution committees and trying to ensure that food is distributed fairly within the family.
5. Empowering women farmers
Women farmers have difficulties getting the same access to tools, fertilizers, seeds and credit as men. We’re committed to working with women farmers to secure their financial and social empowerment. For example, our Purchase for Progress (P4P) covered twenty countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America and trained 200,000 women in numerous aspects of agricultural production and other skills. By the end of the pilot phase of the project, 36 percent of leadership positions were held by women.
6. Involving men and boys in the discussion
Gender inequality isn’t just about women. We believe that involving men and boys in the discussion is critical for success because if we are to eliminate hunger in our lifetime we need to understand and meet the different needs of the people – women, men, boys and girls whom we serve.
Photo gallery: Meet Achuol
A day in the life of Achuol, a woman who does it all.