“If we go into the bush to collect firewood, we risk getting robbed or raped – all sorts of things,” Maria Nabinto, a refugee in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), told the World Food Programme (WFP) earlier this year.
Harrowing words from a woman who is simply trying to carry out her daily tasks – but sadly, an experience that is echoed, albeit in different contexts, by women the world over.
Acts of violence against women aged 15 – 44 are the cause of more death and disability than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. From the refugees camps of DRC to the streets of New York, up to 70 per cent of women will experience violence of some form during their lives.
And it isn’t just the lasting physical and psychological marks that remain – gender based violence damages community cohesion, hampers women’s opportunities and devastates livelihoods.
WFP is working with women to ensure that the food assistance we provide contributes to their safety, dignity and integrity.
A safe haven in DRC
In DRC, a startling 1,100 rapes are reported every month, with an average of 36 women and girls raped every single day. Panzi hospital in Bukavu offers a safe haven for survivors of sexual violence providing women with medical care, psychological counselling and life skills workshops.
WFP provides food assistance to the hospital, contributing to a healthy recovery for the women – and ensuring that they have no reason to venture out into unsafe environments.
And WFP isn’t just responding to those that have suffered. Many women living in refugee camps near Goma fled their homes as a result of civil conflict – yet they find life in the refugee camps can bring its own risks.
Having interviewed many women like Maria at the camps near Goma, it was clear many feared for their safety when out in the bushes collecting firewood.
WFP now runs a programme which produces and distributes briquettes as an alternative cooking fuel, sparing women the dangerous trek – where this basic daily task can be a threat to lives.
Promoting equality in Nicaragua
In Nicaragua, it is a different type of violence that threatens most women – and the perpetrators are closer to home. Domestic violence affects nearly 48 per cent of married women in the country, which is one of the reasons why WFP is working to promote gender equality through food programmes.
WFP is teaching women best agricultural practices and supporting gender awareness events to address underlying inequalities and empower women farmers socially and economically.
This is particularly crucial given that in developing countries, women are responsible for 60 to 80 per cent of food production in developing countries. In fact, if women had the same access to resources as men, they could increase agricultural yields by 20 to 30 per cent, lifting 100 – 150 million people out of poverty.
Ending violence against women isn’t only a right for the millions affected worldwide – with women and girls accounting for half of the human capital in the fight against poverty, it is an important step towards ending world hunger.
Take action: Learn more, speak out, and join the 16-day UNiTE campaign to eradicate gender-based violence.