UN World Food Programme

Women Shoulder Heaviest Burden in Global Food Crisis

Isatou Jallow is from Gambia and has worked at WFP since 2006.  She is currently chief of WFP's Gender unit.

Throughout the developing world the global food crisis has made women’s role as chief food provider even more difficult. As WFP delivers food to nearly 100 million people in 77 countries, we try to lighten that burden when we can with an eye toward gender equality.

ROME -- Speaking in the run-up to International Women's Day on March 8, Isatou Jallow, the head of WFP’s gender unit, explains the ever-present gender dimension to WFP's work. (Interview by Natasha Scripture).

How does the global food crisis affect women in particular?
Women have unequal access to resources and the food crisis has only worsened the situation. High food prices have forced families to reduce their food intake while increasing the workload of women in order to earn more income to be able purchase food. And as usual, a woman will always be the last to eat - instead saving the food for her children and other family members.
Women may also engage in negative coping mechanisms, such as prostitution, in order to be able to provide food for her family.  There is also the direct impact on women’s nutritional status - with malnutrition affecting their productivity, and their overall health.

How does WFP's food assistance help women and girls?
First and foremost, we support women and girls by providing them with nutritious foods during the critical stages of their lives – including childhood and pregnancy. Our focus is not to just give any food but to give quality, fortified foods to ensure that we contribute to the nutrient needs of – in particular – newborns, pregnant and lactating women. Nutrition is critical as it is estimated that iron deficiency, anemia and maternal short stature increase the risk of death at delivery and account for at least 20% of maternal mortality.
See how WFP helped one woman in Bangladesh

What about education, a key issue for equality?
WFP addresses the gender gap in education through our school meals programmes by providing take-home rations for girls. We also provide women with vital skills and income-earning opportunities through Food for Training and Food for Work programmes.  These activities reduce the risk of women using negative coping mechanisms, such as prostitution, to obtain food.
See how WFP is helping two sisters in Afghanistan

What is the thrust of WFP's new Gender Policy?
The new gender policy is all about creating an enabling environment to better promote gender equality, positive gender relations and the empowerment of women through WFP’s policies and programmes. Read Gender Policy document

What are some of the challenges that many women around the world face regularly?
Women must juggle multiple roles and face unequal access to social services, education, health, employment and land ownership. On top of that, women are at risk of gender-based violence.  Whether we see it or not, most women around the world experience violence in one form or another.  What we see and what we know about violence against women is only the tip of the iceberg.  It is no coincidence that violence against women is the theme of this year's International Women’s Day.

Read the International Alliance Against Hunger's message to women - and men - on International Women's Day. Click here