10 Facts About Women And Hunger

Women are often victims of hunger. They also have a crucial role to play in defeating hunger. As mothers, farmers, teachers and entrepreneurs, they hold the key to building a future free of malnutrition. Here are ten reasons why empowering women is such an important part of WFP’s work.

SAFE: Ending violence against women

woman standing with fuel efficient stoves One of the ways WFP is helping to end violence against women is by providing many of the families it assists with fuel-efficient stoves. In their daily quest for firewood, women living in refugee camps or arid areas are forced to venture into unsafe areas and so become vulnerable to rape and other attacks. Fuel-efficient stoves lessen this risk by making fuel last longer. As part of the UN’s SAFE initiative (Safe Access to Firewood and alternative Energy), WFP projects have reached more than 2 million people in Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Uganda. | Learn more 

1. In developing countries, 79% of economically active women spend their working hours producing food, working in agriculture. Women are 43% of the farming work force. 

2. Yields for women farmers are 20-30 percent lower than for men. This is because women have less access to improved seeds, fertilizers and equipment. 

3. Giving women farmers more resources could bring the number of hungry people in the world down by 100 - 150 million people. 

4. Surveys in a wide range of countries have shown that 85 - 90 percent of the time spent on household food preparation is women’s time.  

5. In some countries, tradition dictates that women eat last, after all the male members and children have been fed. 

6. When a crisis hits, women are generally the first to sacrifice their food consumption, in order to protect the food consumption of their families.

7. Malnourished mothers are more likely to give birth to underweight babies. Underweight babies are 20 percent more likely to die before the age of five. 

8. Around half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anaemic. This causes around 110,000 deaths during child birth each year. 

9. Research confirms that, in the hands of women, an increase in family income improves children’s health and nutrition.

10. Education is key. One study showed that women's education contributed 43% of the reduction in child malnutrition over time, while food availability accounted for 26%. 

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  • Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development, FAO, March 2011 (Facts 2, 3, 9, 10)
  • The role of women in rural development, food production and poverty eradication, UN Women, 2012 (Fact 4)
  • Committee on Food Security, FAO, 2011 (Fact 5, 6)
  • Progress for Children: A World Fit for Children, UNICEF, 2007 (Fact 7)
  • The Female Face of Farming, FAO, 2012 (citing Smith and Haddad 2000). (Facts 1 , 8)