Women & Girls Empowerment

End hunger – start with women.

Women bear almost all responsibility for meeting basic needs of the family, yet are systematically denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfill this responsibility.

The vast majority of the world’s poor are women. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate population are female. Of the millions of school age children not in school, the majority are girls. And today, HIV/AIDS is rapidly becoming a woman’s disease. Women comprise nearly 60 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Around the world, millions of people eat two or three times a day, but a significant percentage of women eat only once. Many women deny themselves even that one meal to ensure that their children are fed. These women are already suffering the effects of even more severe malnutrition, which inevitably will be their children’s fate as well.

Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase. In short, communities become more resilient.

The Hunger Project firmly believes that empowering women to be key change agents is an essential element to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. Wherever we work, our programs aim to support women and build their capacity.

By providing women food farmers easy access to credit, adequate training and instilling in them the importance of saving, The Hunger Project’s Microfinance Programme enables women to engage in income-generating activities to increase their incomes and invest in their families and communities.

“We all know that women have always centred their actions and lives around their families and communities. As primary caregivers they have always taken actions to meet the basic nutritional needs and health of their families. Therefore, there cannot be a more potent and direct relationship between women’s thoughts, concerns and actions and the well-being of their family/community,” says Rita Sarin, Global Vice President and Country Director of The Hunger Project India.

As a development practitioner working in the field of social development for over 40 years, I am convinced that women-focussed and women-centred strategies are key to ending hunger, poverty, and inequity across the globe,” says Sarin.

Photo by Johanna Lingaas Türk

“When more women occupy decision-making positions, a mindset of concern and inclusive development for all starts. Equipped with the right skills, knowledge and processes so they can access systems, women leaders not only become articulate in their vision, thoughts, and action but they also strive to leave no stone unturned in achieving the ‘last mile delivery’. By adopting inclusive and equitable development strategies, women leaders tackle the issues of extreme hunger and poverty in their communities, as well as help create and sustain an equal and just society.”

Our work has shown that whenever women are in decision-making positions, their first action is to address hunger, malnutrition, hygiene and sanitation in their families and communities, followed by safe drinking water and education. These are the basic needs for any community to survive and develop.

What We Do

Provide access to microfinance. At our epicentres across Africa, tens of thousands of women food farmers are increasing their incomes through our training, credit and savings program, and strengthening their clout in the marketplace.

Empower elected women representatives. Campaigns such as SWEEP (Strengthening Women’s Leadership in the Electoral Process) identify and empower elected women representatives throughout India. Many participants go on to become elected women representatives. These representatives are now effective change agents for ending hunger in their villages. They form district-and state-wide federations to ensure that their voices are heard at top levels of government.

Promote community leadership roles for women. Our Women’s Empowerment Program (WEP) empowers women to change mindsets about gender discrimination to become strong leaders in their households and communities. In Africa, every Epicentre Committee – a council that is elected to be responsible for all epicentre activities – must include an equal number of women and men.

Celebrate and empower girl children in Bangladesh. The Hunger Project catalyzed the formation of a 300-organization alliance that honors National Girl Child Day each year. This day gathers tens of thousands of people in events focused on eradicating all forms of discrimination against girl children. The alliance also functions as the National Girl Child Advocacy Forum throughout the year, and THP-Bangladesh serves as the secretariat. In 2011, the United Nations formally recognized October 11 as the International Day of the Girl.

Halt the spread of HIV/AIDS through education and awareness building. Our HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Campaign was launched in 2003. African leaders who were willing and able to confront the gender issues fueling the spread of HIV/AIDS designed workshops to empower communities to transform the conditions that fuel the disease. Since then, the workshops have reached millions of participants.

Promote equal education for girls. “Animators” (community volunteers) across our programme countries run educational campaigns to promote childhood primary school enrollment, especially for girl children. All children (the majority of which are girls) enrolled in our epicentre nursery schools in Africa are guaranteed access to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. Additionally, our Microfinance Programme in Africa includes a policy that requires participants to enroll their daughters in school.

Monitor maternal and childhood health. Throughout our programmes, women participate in educational workshops to learn about the importance of maternal health and caring for their children. Elected women leaders in India ensure that government-run maternal and child health centers are functioning effectively and reaching the community. In Africa, children are weighed and monitored at our epicenter health clinics. More than half of these children are girls.

End child marriage, dowry and other harmful cultural practices. Animators throughout our programmes run awareness campaigns to put an end to violence against girls and discriminatory practices like child marriage, dowry and female genital mutilation.

“Let me state unequivocally that you empower a woman and the whole village and community develops, and if you do not invest in her skills and capacities as the change maker, generations will suffer from hunger and malnutrition, as is evident today,” says Sarin.

Inspired? Invest now to empower women

Razia, Bangladesh

“Every woman should be skilled and economically self-reliant… Otherwise, the problems of women could never be solved…”

Rita, Ghana

“I worked with the teachers, sensitising the school children on the effects and the harms teenage pregnancy can do to them.”

Rejeya, Bangladesh

“Now I do not pass the night without food and my other family members can eat full meals at night.”

Photography credit: banner image – Johannes Ode