African women leaders demand support for women and girls tackling hunger19 June 2023
Women civil society leaders are urging the international community to ensure the meaningful participation and leadership of women-led organisations on the frontline of the global hunger crisis.
Representatives from over 20 grassroots organisations from 12 countries – all of them women, gathered this week in Nairobi to identify solutions to increase women and girls’ participation in the fight against food insecurity, share best practices and lessons learnt.
Women leaders called for women and girls to be central to efforts to address the global hunger crisis, including through gender parity in decision-making structures and full and equal access to land, credit, and productive assets.
Despite their active role and crucial contributions in food systems and climate action, women often lack access to decision-making and leadership positions.
“Leadership is not given, it is negotiated and fought for. We need to fight for women’s leadership in fighting hunger.” said Celina Kathura from the Wiyukiririe Women Group in Kenya.
Gender equality threatened by hunger crisis
“We know that gender equality is threatened by the current hunger emergency. With about 150 million more hungry women and girls than men, the gender gap is increasing quickly. It is clear that women and girls hold the key to fighting famine. We need to start listening to them and act.” said Reena Ghelani, the United Nations Famine Prevention and Response Coordinator.
Lilian Dodzo, World Vision’s Regional Director and Vice-President for East Africa, highlighted the efforts undertaken by the NGO in response to the impact of hunger in seven countries across the region, comprising Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda; “A deadly mix of conflict, cost of living and climate change has pushed nearly seven million people across seven countries in East Africa to the very brink of a hunger crisis. They always bear the brunt of most crises, hunger included, and are experiencing high levels of malnutrition.”
Government officials, UN partners and Kenyan influencers joined the conversation, including Inua Dada Foundation’s Janet Mbugua who said: “How can women and girls lead in the fight against hunger? First by being allowed to lead. Once they step in to lead, they must then be supported, resourced and given the necessary capacity building to allow them to intervene in these crises.”
Global funding appeal
In direct response to calls from civil society for more support for their efforts, the United Nations Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF) announced the launch of its new global funding appeal to mobilise US$ 55 million in financing for local women-led and women’s rights civil society organisations working to respond to food insecurity in fragile settings across the globe.
“Despite being hit the hardest by hunger, it is women – and the civil society organisations they lead – who are so often central to eradicating hunger in their communities,” said Ghita El Khyari, Head of the Secretariat of the United Nations Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund. “With the launch of WPHF’s first ever global food security funding appeal, we aim to mobilise new financing to scale up support and accelerate the impact of frontline women’s organisations leading local efforts in crisis settings to fight food insecurity worldwide.”
A series of recent reports, including OCHA’s ‘Gendered Drivers, Risks and Impacts of Food Insecurity’, Plan International’s “Beyond Hunger” and FAO’s Status of Women in Agrifood systems lays bare the disproportionate impacts of the global hunger crisis on women and girls, including in the area of education, gender-based violence, and sexual and reproductive health.
“Hunger impacts girls, boys, women and men differently. We know that gender inequality is both a cause and consequence of food insecurity. As the world is at a tipping point for hunger, advancing gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment is critical to achieving food security for all,” said Stephen Omollo, Plan International Chief Executive Officer.
The two-day workshop on Women and Girls Leading Against Hunger was organised by the United Nations Famine Prevention Response Coordinator, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Nairobi, Plan International, World Vision, WPHF, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). It built on the high-level humanitarian roundtable which was convened in March 2023 by OCHA, the Norwegian Mission to the United Nations in New York, and the African Union on the topic of gendered dimensions of food insecurity.
The event serves as the starting point of a movement aiming to lift up and elevate voices of women’s organisations active in food security. Daisy Amdany, the Executive Director of CRAWN Trust in Kenya, said: “There is power in coming together. Women need to demand inclusion in all issues that affect their lives including food security.”