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Focus on Women

Women may be victims of hunger but they are also the most effective solution to combating and preventing hunger.

Women make up a little over half of the world's population but in many parts of the world, especially in Asia and South America, they are more likely to go hungry than men. This is because women often have unequal access to resources, education and income, and because they participate less in decision-making.

But women are also the most effective solution to combating and preventing hunger. In many countries, women make up the bulk of agricultural labourers and are the backbone of food production systems.

Women also play a key role in guaranteeing food security for the household. Experience shows that in the hands of women, food is far more likely to reach the mouths of needy children. Learn more

Focus on Women - Stories

Building Resilience
For WFP, the resilience of a community is measured by its capacity to prevent, resist and respond to unexpected challenges (shocks) and to recover from and adapt to them in a sustainable way. In regions of Mali that are beginning to emerge from the recent series of crises, WFP is working with communities to ensure they have the ability to be resilient in the face of future shocks.  

Many of the resilience projects currently underway in Mali have been made possible thanks to funding from the European Union. The EU and WFP are working together to find the most effective means of building long-term, sustainable solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition in Mali.

Planning Together
In the region of Ségou, WFP and its partner, World Vision, have been working with the villagers of Dorolo since February of 2013.

Before getting to work, WFP and a group of community representatives sat down to discuss the specific challenges facing their community and what sorts of projects would be most effective for them.

The community told WFP that their main problems were a lack of food and rain. Without sufficient water, they explained, agriculture was difficult and food hard to come by.

Taking the First Step
Together, WFP and the community decided that the first step toward building their long-term food security would be to create a grove of fruit trees and a market garden, which would be run mainly by the women of Dorola. To make this project possible, WFP would help them build several water wells, a water pump and a composting area, where villagers would learn to create organic fertilizer for their own use and for sale.

When we visited in November of 2014, the trees were still too young to bear fruit. However, women had individual plots where they were growing vegetables to feed their families. 

Demouny Diarra, a mother of five, told us that she and her family have really benefited from the garden project.

"Before this project – I can’t even tell you – there were so many problems. Especially for women – we were so tired. After the harvest, all the women would go to the interior of the country to work as cleaning ladies so they could buy food for their children,” she explains.  “But, with the garden, what do we have? Food!” she laughs. “You see that plot of trees and peppers over there?” she asks, pointing. “That’s mine. Since starting this work, I haven’t had to pay anything at the market."

Multiple Angles
Building resilience requires attacking the root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition from multiple angles.

The community of Dorola also told WFP that the villagers had already started building a new, more direct road to make it easier to get to and from the local market. They explained that work was slow going as able-bodied workers also have families to feed and weren’t able to devote much time to the project.

Food for Assets 
WFP has seen first-hand how food assistance for assets – using food, cash or vouchers – can result in immediate gains for food security. To support the community in achieving their goal, WFP provided family food rations to those working on the road so that they could complete the project more quickly without having to worry about how they would feed their families.

On a recent visit to the village, the Mayor, Yaya Traore, told WFP

 

We have many challenges here in our community, including a lack of food and rain. This road has helped us deal with our food problems because now we can easily transport food home from the market.

Mr. Traore also told WFP that the community has created a committee, which is responsible for ensuring the upkeep of the road, and he has set up a fund in the village’s budget to pay for its regular maintenance.

A Bright and Independent Future

The project to build resilience in Dorolo began in early 2013 and the community quickly saw the benefits. The following year, the villagers were eager to continue building on their success. In 2014, when WFP and World Vision returned at planting time to continue their support, the women were already in the garden, working.

Etienne Dembele, one of the community project managers, said these projects have gotten people excited for the future and he let us in on some of the village’s plans:

“What we’d like to do next is start cultivating rice. We’re thinking of building a dam to block the water, which would give us a pond to grow rice. Being able to grow and eat our own rice – that’s our hope.”

WFP is currently working with communities similar to Dorola across Mali – helping them build their resilience, improve food security and reduce malnutrition in the process. WFP intends to continue working with and supporting these communities until they can be self-sufficient.  

In Mali, a recent pastoral crisis, successive droughts and political instability have left many communities in a precarious situation – a situation that could be devastating if another shock hits before they can fully recover.

1. The week begins with a series of talks done by different people from different institutions and companies.

Companies gather and share their experiences on the topic of “mothers and breastfeeding”. The goal of the talks is to work as an incentive for companies, to create safe spaces where mothers can breastfeed their children and places in the workplace where mothers can breast pump and store their milk. (Copyright: WFP/Tayra Pinzon)

2. Then the Annual Family Fair called: La Gran Tetada (The Breastfeeding Fest) takes place

In this family fair, mothers from all over Panama bring their babies to Parque Omar to learn and share experiences of breastfeeding.  Mothers’ breastfeed their children together, while listening to educational talks on how to properly breastfeed children, effective techniques of breastfeeding, and the importance of breastfeeding. (Copyright: Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Lactancia Materna)

3. Mass Media Promotes Breastfeeding in TV and Radio

All media networks are connected this week to broadcast information about breastfeeding. Most interview people in the government, health institutions, or medical facilities. The objective is to reach as many persons possible, all over the country and in the most remote areas. (Copyright: Comisión Nacional de Fomento a la Lactancia Materna)

4. Baby Care-packages are delivered!

Panama provides baby care-packages, which include baby shampoo, baby wipes, baby powder, baby everything! They deliver these in different facilities while providing mothers with educational pamphlets and talks about proper breastfeeding. (Copyright: WFP/Tayra Pinzon)

5. Finally the Closing Ceremony Takes Place in a Hospital that Has a Breast Milk Bank

A Breast Milk Bank is a center where human milk, donated by selected mothers, is received, stored, and distributed to children that do not count with milk from their own mother. Because Panama only has a limited amount of these facilities. The goal of hosting the closing ceremony in the hospital is to promote Breast Milk Banks. (Copyright: WFP/Tayra Pinzon)

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From the 1st to the 7th of August, Breastfeeding Week is all about promoting breastfeeding to teens, mothers, institutions, private sector, and organizations. Breastfeeding can change the course of a child’s life!
In Latin America, WFP in Panama is a big fan of breastfeeding because of its important effects on nutrition. Therefore they support the National Commission for Breastfeeding to raise as much awareness during this week.

Here is how Panama raises awareness on Breastfeeding:

 

BATOURI  -- Fatimatou and her children arrived in Cameroon in February. They are living in a small refugee camp at Yokadouma, just inside Cameroon’s eastern border.  Her husband died a few years ago but several members of her extended family are also in Yokadouma and assist her. She was happy to answer questions about her life.

What are the biggest changes in your life?

Having no money and very little to do. Back in our village in C.A.R., I had a stall at the local market. I used to sell tomatoes, onions, oil…things like that. So I was always busy.  And even though I wasn’t rich we were OK. I’d like to start up a small business like that here. It’s going to be hard because I spent all my money just getting here. But maybe I can find a way.

What else has changed?

Well my two girls aren’t going to school. It’s too far away for them to go on foot. We’d need someone to take them on a motorbike. And they couldn’t go alone. It’s a shame. School is a good thing, especially for girls. Another difference is how we sleep. Back home, there were six of us sleeping in the bedroom – me  and the children. Here there are 21 people in the same room.

Is it all bad?

No. At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that. And I have friends and family here to help me.

When did you come to Cameroon?

About five months ago. We left with a lot of other people from our village when the trouble started. There was a lot of tension and people were getting attacked. It was too dangerous to stay. To go faster, we paid for a car to come part of the way – that was very expensive.

What did you bring with you?

I managed to bring another dress, so I can change my clothes. Same for the children. We didn’t bring anything else. We had to leave everything behind.

Is there something you were especially sorry to leave? 

[quote|At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that]Yes, my set of new white dinner plates. I had enough for 20 people. I had just bought them and they were so beautiful. Who knows what’s happened to them now.

Are you going to return to CAR? 

What for? What am I going to do there with all the fighting that’s happening? If the fighting stops and things settle down…maybe, I don’t know. It depends on what the rest of my family does. They will decide. I just want to be where they are.

What would you say to anyone reading about you?

[story|642294,642039]We all used to live together in CAR, Muslims and Christians. There was no problem.  Now we’re all fighting each other. It's stupid. Now people like us have had to leave everything behind. And come here, where we have to start all over again. War is bad. People should be able to live together.

Fatimatou Djara is one of over 100,000 people who have arrived in Cameroon this year, fleeing the vicious bloodletting in the Central African Republic.  She and her three children receive food from WFP every month. In this interview, she explains some of the changes that life as a refugee brings.

Anjuara Begum, her husband and three children live in Gaibandha, northern Bangladesh – a land of mighty rivers. Every year, during the rainy season, the rivers swell and take with them blocks of land – agricultural fields, roads, even small settlements. In 2003, Anjuara and her family lost their home to the floods.

 

"The ground started breaking away during the night. In the dark, we had to move our house and everything we owned,” Anjuara recalls with a deep sigh. The family still lives close to the river on government land just next to an embankment, the only space landless families can occupy without objections.

After the move the family struggled: “My husband became a day labourer, but it was tough to get a job every day. When he didn’t find work, we sometimes had no food for us and the kids,” Anjuara recalls. But her face lights up as she remembers the day, almost three years ago now, when her life took a turn for the better: "I was sitting on the embankment along with some of my neighbours, those who are jobless like me. Suddenly a stranger walked up and asked us if there are any poor people living in the area. Later we learned the man was from WFP.”

“He offered us to sit together with other locals, including the upazila chairman and other leaders. During the meeting, we wrote down the names of all local people in three categories: rich, poor and ultra-poor. Everyone agreed on the list, and then we, the ultra-poor people, got a chance to work on projects that protect our community.”

Like her, thousands of people living in north-western flood prone areas and along the southern coast of Bangladesh are particularly vulnerable to natural calamities. Under the Enhancing Resilience to Natural Disasters and the Effects of Climate Change programme, the Government of Bangladesh’s Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) and WFP, with support from NGOs, engages 80,000 ultra-poor rural women and men in cash and food for work and training to increase their resilience to future disasters. Together, they repair and reinforce embankments, raise roads, excavate canals and ponds and elevate the ground around their houses in order to protect their communities from flooding, water-logging and increasing salinity, and to boost agricultural production.

From 2011 to 2012, Anjuara and her ultra-poor neighbours repaired and raised a road in their neighbourhood as part of a cash/food for work project. Now this road not only improves access to schools, markets and health centres in the area but also serves as a dam, protecting their community and fields from flooding.

During the rainy season, when earthworks are too difficult, Anjuara and her neighbours participated in training sessions on disaster preparedness and response, hygiene, sanitation and nutrition. In exchange for their time and labour, they received nutritious food rations from WFP and the equivalent in cash from the Government of Bangladesh.

In 2013, Anjuara and 18,000 women across Bangladesh became the first participants to start a third programme year. In order to further strengthen families’ resilience to natural disaster, WFP used lessons learned from the successful Food Security for the Ultra Poor project which helped 30,000 women and their families rise out of extreme poverty.

Through NGO partners, WFP organized trainings to help the women identify activities that match their skills and local demand, and develop a business plan. They then received a cash grant to invest, and a monthly allowance to help support their families while they focused on making their businesses successful.

In the trainings, Anjuara also learned to invest in diverse assets to ensure her family still has some income even if one of them is damaged. She applied these lessons immediately, using her 12,000 taka cash grant, combined with savings from the cash/food for work project she participated in, to purchase a bull and a rickshaw.

For six months, a monthly allowance of 500 taka helps Anjuara take care of her family’s needs while she fattens the bull to sell at a profit, and her husband builds up a rickshaw transport service. The animal is already paying dividends as the dung can be sold as fuel.

The older two of Anjuara’s three children are now studying in primary school. “I am so happy that I can send my children to school and that I can buy them the school clothing and study materials they need” says Anjuara. “And they always eat three meals a day now,” she adds proudly.

Her new-found financial security even encouraged Anjuara to make big plans for the future: “With the revenues I make from bull fattening, I think I will be able to buy a small piece of homestead land – then we can finally move away from the river.”

 

Resilience to natural disasters has many aspects – a home safe from flooding, the knowledge and skills to prepare for and cope with disasters, and the financial security to recover and rebuild in the aftermath of a shock. In Bangladesh, WFP tackles all these issues with a comprehensive programme.