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Empowering Women WIll End Hunger: Celebrating Women's Role in Meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge

ROME/MBABANE – Every year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides around eleven million schoolgirls with food to help keep them in education and around three million vulnerable women with special nutritional support. This year, on International Women’s Day (March 8), WFP is celebrating how empowering women can boost global efforts to end hunger.

 Giving women the power to make choices over their lives is one of the first steps towards a world with zero hunger,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin. “In every country where WFP works, women are front and centre in programmes to tackle the problems of food insecurity and undernutrition. We work with women farmers, traders, nutrition workers, school cooks and we serve millions of schoolgirls, pregnant women and nursing mothers.”

This year’s United Nations theme for International Women’s Day stresses that “Equality for women is progress for all.” One example of a WFP programme that focusses on women’s advancement is Purchase for Progress, or P4P, an initiative that helps smallholder farmers, particularly women, become competitive players in the marketplace by producing food for sale and use in WFP programmes.

In Swaziland,  WFP aims to provide food assistance to orphaned and vulnerable children at volunteer-led care centres called Neighbourhood Care Points (NCPs).  With food and training from WFP, volunteers like 62-year-old Phumzile Lukhele Ndwandwe and her colleagues cook two warm meals a day for 26 young children at Ekukhanyeni NCP in  Nginamadvolo,  Piggs Peak.

Phumzile, a widowed mother of six, is the sole bread winner in her family. At her age it is not easy to find employment. WFP provides a monthly ration to volunteer care givers, many who are rural women. Phumzile says that  the food she and her fellow volunteers receive in support of their NCP work  makes a big difference to their families.

“These volunteers, women and men, play a crucial role in helping to end hunger for Swaziland’s most vulnerable children,” says WFP Country Director Heather Hill. “Caregivers ensure the children get the care and support they need for a bright future.” Should this project receive further funding this year, WFP will be able to assist 66,000 children and 3,900 caregivers in neighbourhood care points.

A report by WFP’s sister agency the Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that closing the gender gap in agriculture by giving women farmers more resources could bring the number of hungry people in the world down by more an estimated 100 million people.The State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011 report found that women lacked access to land, credit, tools and seeds that could boost agricultural production.

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