By Minna Nurminen, Youth Ambassador, Belgium
Hunger is perhaps the clearest manifestation of poverty and inequality. There are around 795 million hungry (chronically undernourished) people in the world – much of this group is made up of women and girls. Women remain disproportionately affected by poverty, discrimination and exploitation and face much higher social, economic, and political barriers compared to their male counterparts. These difficulties for women are only multiplied in the world’s poorest countries.
If we want to end extreme poverty and hunger, we must face facts: girls and women are getting a bad deal.
The president and CEO of the World Hunger Project, Åsa Skogström Feldt, describes how the cycle of malnutrition in a girl’s life may start.
As a child, a girl is likely to be fed last and least after her brothers and father. She may be married at a young age and drop out of school because of pregnancy. She might miss school for other reasons, such as lack of decent sanitation facilities or domestic work responsibilities. In fact, only a little over 20 % of girls in poor rural African communities will complete primary education. Later in life, she may not have access to the same job opportunities as her male counterparts and is more likely to be in vulnerable employment with lower pay. If she becomes pregnant while she’s undernourished, she is likely to give birth to an undernourished baby – and so the cycle continues.
This is the reality for too many girls and is why ONE is working to remind the world that “Poverty is Sexist”. The campaign calls for refocusing the development agenda so that girls and women are center stage. What does it mean in practice? Here are some examples:
Guarantee equal access to education. Studies show that breaking the barriers to quality education and training for girls could significantly reduce overall poverty levels and boost girls’ future income, reduce rates of child malnutrition, and save the lives of mothers and children. Education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty — but 130 million girls still do not have access to this opportunity.
Empower women through employment and agriculture. Gender norms downplay women’s work opportunities, while women and girls continue to bear the lion’s share of unpaid domestic and care work. Land rights, safe energy, technology and financial services are still out of reach for many women. Ensuring access to quality jobs for women is a powerful way to combat hunger.
Invest in inclusive social protection systems. Social security schemes are an essential part of inclusive growth, and critical for eradicating poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Guaranteeing a minimum level of resources mitigates risks but also facilitates better access to social services, health care, better nutrition, education and jobs for the most vulnerable – who often are women.
Poverty and gender inequality go hand in hand. Empowering women and girls is not just a question of equality and rights, but a precondition for ending world hunger and extreme poverty. The good news is that ending hunger is possible – and you can play a role. Here are a few easy ways you can mark World Hunger Day this year:
- Sign ONE’s Poverty is Sexist letter to leaders to help girls get education
- Join Malala Yousafzai, Sheryl Sandberg and others by claiming your number because all #GirlsCount
- Challenge your friends, family and neighbours to sign up, too!