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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

Women farmers like Alexandra were previously unable to access local markets. "If we wanted to sell lettuce to a local merchant, they would offer us 10 cents. But if we were going to the market to buy lettuce, they would charge us 50 cents,” said Pimampiro farmer Alexandra Bejarano. “Because we are women and from rural communities, no one took us seriously," Alejandra explained. Discouraged but determined, the women of Pimampiro set out on a mission to create their own market space.

"I don’t think you can, that is for educated people."
Alexandra, who was 24 years old when the association was created in 2012, recalls that much of her community did not believe in her ability to lead the project. "People would tell me, ‘I don’t think you can, that's for educated people,’ but I told them that I would succeed with the support of my association’s women," Alexandra proudly explained.

The Tierra del Sol Association
To recruit members, they announced on the radio that they were creating a small-holder farmers’ association and visited 42 communities to register them. Their perseverance and dedication led to the formation of the Tierra del Sol Association, consisting of 210 women and seven men in the province of Imbabura. The first order of business of the new association was to organize a weekly market where the association members could sell their products directly to their community.  Now, 110 farmers sell their products at a market that takes place every weekend.  Association members rotate from week to week so that all 217 members are able to participate.

Fresh, Quality Products
In addition to the market, the association also works with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Provincial Government of Imbabura. Members deliver fresh products for food assistance programmes implemented by WFP in coordination with local governments to serve vulnerable Colombians and Ecuadorians. "Today we provide top quality food to meet the needs of the programme," says Alexandra.

While Alexandra is glad that her husband works, she commented, "I also think that as a woman I can succeed, especially now that we are at the market and working with WFP. WFP has been the strength, the arm stretched out to support us, especially women."

Women living in the canton of Pimampiro north of Quito are taking action. After attempting to sell food grown in their home gardens, they soon saw that there existed few formal market opportunities in their communities and realized that they faced many challenges. The following article tells the story of a group of organized and united women farmers who created a space for themselves in their local market and who now provide food for WFP’s assistance programmes.

 

The Seven Summits Women Team at the summit of Mt. Vinson Massif in Antarctica.
All photos courtesy of Seven Summits Women Team/Shailee Basnet

The Seven Summits Women Team, composed of seven Nepali women: Nimdoma Sherpa, Pema Diki Sherpa, Chunu Shrestha, Maya Gurung, Pujan Acharya, Asha Kumari Singh, and Shailee Basnet, is the first all-female team in the world with a mission to climb the highest mountains in all seven continents. The team recently achieved their goal after conquering Mt. Vinson in Antarctica. This marks the world’s first women’s team summiting the seven highest peaks in the world.

“I wanted to be extraordinary and did not like to stay within the boundaries of our society, which women often have to do in Nepal. This was my motivation to join the Seven Summits Women Team. After I climbed Mt. Everest in 2008, I felt that the Seven Summits Women Team was for me,” said Nimdoma when asked what motivated her to climb the highest mountains in each of the world's continent.

Growing up at the foothills of the Himalayas, Nimdoma was exposed to adventure ever since she was a child. Her older brother, a tour guide, introduced her to lots of foreigners. Through his work, she met people coming to her village to climb mountains and always wondered what it would be like to be at the summit one day.

[quote|Education opens doors that you did not know existed.]

 

Now that she has conquered the highest mountains in all seven continents, she feels a sense of accomplishment and is grateful to all her sponsors, including the Government of Nepal, without whom her dreams would never have been realized.

Hard Work And Determination: That’s All It Takes

“As you progress up the mountain, besides thin air, the weather gets worse and worse. That, combined with physical exhaustion and the possibility of an avalanche or a snow storm, as well as running out of food, are the biggest challenges. But, I have realized that mental determination goes a long way towards committing oneself and succeeding,” explained Nimdoma, who fortunately did not suffer from any major sicknesses during her Seven Summits expedition.
 

The team at the summit of Mt. Vinson Massif with a banner of the organizations that supported them.

Everywhere they went, following a climb, the Seven Summits Women Team engaged with local communities and with schools to discuss education, empowerment and environment. In their interactions, the members advocated for women empowerment by telling their personal stories. By taking women hiking and climbing, they educated communities on the strength reserves that women hold -- they are by no means "the weaker gender".

The team wishes to involve more women in mountaineering. However, access to quality education is the key to achieving this goal. To date, the Seven Summits Women Team has visited over 200 schools across the world, most of them beneficiaries of the WFP School Feeding Programme. As the largest provider of school meals worldwide, WFP, with governments and partners, aim to motivate children to stay in school, and encourage their attendance through the provision of nutritious school meals. Nimdoma, who was herself a WFP School Feeding beneficiary when she was in primary school, enjoys speaking with young students, particularly to inspire girls to educate themselves. She always says, “education opens doors that you did not know existed”.  

 

Seven Summits Women Team with the flag of Nepal.

Now And The Future Ahead

Nimdoma’s return home was marked by a grand celebration by the government and the local media. At present, her team is continuing their English lessons with the support of the American Embassy in Kathmandu. Through their travel agency, “7 Summits Women Team,” which just opened a couple of months ago, they aim to train groups, especially women, to climb mountains.

As for Nimdoma, it's time to conquer a different kind of summit -- she will start her bachelor’s programme in Tourism this April and in the process, hopes to inspire more Nepali women to get into mountaineering.

Nimdoma Sherpa, a former WFP School Feeding recipient became one of the youngest Nepali women to climb Mt. Everest at the age of 17. Following her conquest of Mt. Everest, she joined the Seven Summits Women Team, with the aim of climbing the seven highest peaks of the world. She recently fulfilled her aspiration after conquering Mt. Vinson Massif in Antarctica in December 2014, at the age of 24. She speaks to WFP Nepal about her penchant for climbing and her future plans. 
 

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.

Doloran woman holding plant for 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

Community upkeep committee

 

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.

Latin American mother breastfeeding her baby

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

The gran tetada

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

Woman breastfeeding her baby in a park

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!

Girl smiling her her mother and baby sister

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

Mother holding a new born baby

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: