ROME/TEHRAN – Every year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides more than 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 Iran, WFP implements programmes to promote girls’ education and empower women living in refugee settlements. Iran has been hosting the second-largest population of refugees in the world for more than three decades. WFP provides food assistance to 30,000 most vulnerable Afghan and Iraqi refugees living in settlements, 50 percent of them are women and girls.
“WFP is implementing an oil-for-education incentive to promote girls’ education through providing school girls with a take-home ration of oil that acts as an incentive for their families to send them to school,” said WFP Iran Representative and Country Director Negar Gerami. “To further encourage women to play a more active role in their society, we engage women in different activities such as appointing them as the ‘recipient’ of food rations in all refugees’ settlements and having at least one female representative in the refugee council boards of some settlements.”
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 than 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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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries each year.