"Women Are The Secret Weapon To Fight Hunger"

Women are the secret weapon to fight hunger, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran told first ladies gathering in Rome on the eve of the World Food Summit.

ROME -- With more than one billion hungry for the first time in history, women already play a key role in producing food and feeding their families. With tools and training they could become an unstoppable force, she said. Read speech

“People often ask, what can be done to defeat hunger?” said Sheeran, speaking to a First Ladies’ Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement. “My answer is simple: empower women, because women are the secret weapon to fight hunger.”Research has shown that women produce more than 50 percent of all food grown worldwide and in some regions, such as Africa, they are doing up to 80 percent of all agricultural work.

Little access to land

But in spite of shouldering the burden of producing food for their families and communities, women farmers only have access to five percent of agricultural services in the world. Land ownership and access to credit is particularly low.

The First Ladies Summit panel on Food Security and Women’s Access to Resources was chaired by Her Excellency Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak, First Lady of the Arab Republic of Egypt and attended by WFP’s Ambassador Against Hunger, John Kufuor, former President of the Republic of Ghana.

Panellists shared experiences from their own countries on best practices and success stories. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, for example, WFP has partnered ten women’s centres and four local bakeries to prepare healthy pastries – date bars and high-energy biscuits – for use in school meals programmes. More than 130 women are employed through the programme, using milk from local dairies.

Billion for a billion

And In Egypt, women grow pesticide-free vegetables on the flat roofs of their houses to boost their family’s nutrition and increase their income.   

Sheeran called on the 700 million women who do have enough food to contribute €1 a week to the 700 million women who are hungry, as part of WFP’s “Billion for a Billion” citizens’ action campaign.

WFP’s Executive Director highlighted the importance of nutrition for pregnant women and for infants in the first two years of life. And she underlined the importance of every country making food security a national priority, bringing women and girls into strategic plans.