Education is the first step to women’s empowerment. WFP provides fortified biscuits with essential vitamins and minerals to children attending school in order to help them grow and learn. The biscuits also increase the odds that children will attend class regularly.
In many parts of Afghanistan, WFP also provides vegetable oil for girls to take home to their families, as an extra incentive to attend school. Most women in Afghanistan receive fewer than five years of formal education. (Source: Save the Children).
18-year old Marian receives WFP rations to help her learn to read and write. Her childhood was spent as a refugee in Iran – she had no formal schooling before coming to these classes. “My husband encourages me to come here. He says it’s good for me to learn,” she says. The syllabus covered in the standard Afghan textbook includes modules on women’s rights. In 2011, WFP gave food to 47,143 women learning to read and write in Afghanistan.
Zahra, deputy-head of her village’s women’s shura in the Bamyan province, with her husband. “Decisions made in the family are also based on the capacity of the wife. I make all decisions to do with the children, our food, and the keeping of our home. My husband makes decisions regarding outside issues. But if there are important decisions to be made – such as the purchase of land or equipment – we’ll make them together.” With WFP food-for-training classes teaching women how to read and write, women are able to become more active decision-makers.
Marina learned to read and write when she was 21, thanks to a WFP Food-for-Training project. “I had always wanted to study, but my family needed me at home. It was only when I could bring home food that they thought studying was worthwhile.” She now works in a local government office in Bamyan, where she is an example to women who want to get a job. Marina starts her day at 4am to bake bread for the family, prepare breakfast and then walks one hour to be at the office at 8:30am.
The majority of WFP’s beneficiaries are women and children. Women are the key to improving household food security and nutritional wellbeing, since they are largely responsible for making food available for the household either by producing it or purchasing it. WFP voucher programmes in Afghanistan specifically target women.
Food-for-Training projects help women learn skills such as embroidery, sewing and crocheting, which have both practical uses and can provide income-generating opportunities. In 2011, 22,436 women in Afghanistan received WFP food rations to support them in learning vocational skills.
Malnutrition in the first two years of life can lead to irreversible damage to children’s minds and bodies. Undernourished children are more likely to get sick, have trouble concentrating in school, and may earn less as adults. So WFP targets its food interventions to reach pregnant women and mothers of small children to make sure they get the right food at the right time.
15 October 2013 World Food Day 2013 (For The Media)