Women at the center of the World Food Programme

Women at the center of the World Food Programme

March 13, 2020

Women at the center of the World Food Programme

The United Nations program that aims to achieve “zero hunger” underlines the fundamental role of women in managing food and everything that revolves around it.

International Women’s Day in 2020 focused on gender equality and women’s rights, in a year that is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, an ambitious program to increase the emancipation of women and girls. In a world where gender inequality is still the norm in many countries, the UN World Food Programme reminds everyone that the challenge of nutrition, even in emergencies, could not be overcome without the constant presence and contribution the so-called “weaker sex” which - despite the definition - often proves indispensable and extremely strong.

Objective: zero hunger

It is a fact that, in humanitarian crises, women are often the ones who pay the most serious consequences, partly because of the lack of gender equality in most countries around the world. However, it is equally true that women represent a great driving force in society, especially when it comes to food and nutrition in families and communities. These concepts emerge clearly in the WFP’s Strategic Plan (2017-2020), which proposes actions in line with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, focusing in particular on goal number two: end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The WFP “is the main humanitarian organization and agency of the United Nations committed to saving and changing lives, providing food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience”. And the figures are clear: about 15 billion food rations distributed every year, at an estimated cost of 31 cents of a dollar per ration, school meals for over 16 million boys and girls in 60 countries and many development and sustainability projects to support mothers, their children and local communities and economies

Female protagonists

Women have the primary responsibility for feeding their families” point out the WFP experts, underlining that in order to achieve the goals of the 2030 sustainability agenda one cannot ignore the achievement of goal number five: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. “Gender equality is essential for all women, men, girls and boys to achieve the zero hunger goal”, the WFP explains. And within the program, women already perform important roles, even very different from each other, as evidenced by the testimonies published on the WFP website. 

There is the story of Mithu Barua, who, thanks to help from the WFP, can sell her food in the Kuputalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar (Bangladesh) where food aid is regularly distributed by the WFP. For a while now, a food market of local farmers has been active in the camp, which also includes Mithu Barua and other women who, thanks to the support of WFP and FAO, have the opportunity to work in a context where it is still extremely difficult for small farmers, and particularly women, to access micro loans or other aid. “By saving the money I earn selling the products, I can plan a better future for my children and build a beautiful house,” explains the protagonist. 

Different but similar stories are told by the women in the Logistic Cluster, who manage humanitarian logistics operations, coordinating information and managing procedures in an environment historically dominated by men. These women, as explained in an article dedicated to them, are a living example of the fact that gender has nothing to do with the courage, determination and passion to work to help those in need. “Don’t be intimidated. If it interests you, do it” says Katja Hildebrand, coordinator of the Logistics Cluster in the Central African Republic.

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