WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran meets women in Pakistan in 2010.
In a statement issued from France on Tuesday, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran marked the 100th International Women’s Day by recalling the great women who have changed the world, including France's own Joan of Arc, born in the same village as Sheeran's own grandmother.
Today in France, where I am marking the 100th International Women’s Day, I am reminded of all the great women who have changed the world. I have always admired Joan of Arc who was born in my grandmother’s village of Domrémy. Alongside Graça Machel, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Rosa Parks and many others, Joan of Arc is a symbol of strength to the millions of women around the world who are engaged in the daily fight to feed, protect and, ultimately, provide a better life for their children.
Hunger is one of the greatest scourges of our time, with around 1 billion people on earth not knowing where their next meal will come from. As we commemorate Women’s Day, we remember that the sweat-stained face of a farmer, labouring under the hot sun to feed a hungry family, is likely to be that of a woman. But the face of those defeating hunger is also likely to be a woman’s. Because women are our hope; the secret weapon in fighting hunger.
Women front and centre
The vast majority of the people WFP assists are women and children. We have found that when women are front and centre, we succeed in our efforts to beat hunger and malnutrition. In countries like Syria, Cameroon and Nepal, WFP works with Food Management Committees, where 342,000 trained women have leadership positions, in food distribution activities. When these women are part of the hunger solution, the children in their communities eat.
In the innovative Purchase for Progress (P4P) programme, WFP connects small farmers to markets as we help them improve the quality and supply of their products. It is proven that an investment in a woman will be leveraged many times over.
The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that when women farmers receive support and tools such as education, seeds, fertilizers and access to finance, yields could increase exponentially, helping to feed 100-150 million more people.
In keeping with the 2011 United Nations Women’s Day theme of providing a pathway to decent work for women, we remember and celebrate all the women who fight with their lives to feed their families, their communities and their nations.