Celebrating 23 Women Righting the Wrongs of Hunger and Poverty Around the World
They are business women, mothers, teachers, thinkers and entrepreneurs, changing the food system by creating better working conditions, securing land rights, leading green initiatives and more.
“In many developing countries, women are the backbone of the economy. Yet women farmers do not have equal access to resources and this significantly limits their potential in enhancing productivity,” said Melanne Verveer, ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In many countries, women are responsible for the majority of food production, but they are also more likely to suffer from hunger due to food shortages. For instance, Oxfam International data has found women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, but only earn 10 percent of the income.
Despite the challenges, women from Jamaica to New Zealand are playing an integral role in changing the food system to create a well-nourished world, and they are taking on larger and more defined roles in food and agriculture as 70 percent of world's farmers are women.
According to the World Food Programme, providing women farmers access to the same resources as men could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.
As world population grows and the impacts of climate change become more evident, farmers and policymakers will need to invest more in effective strategies to alleviate hunger and poverty. And that means addressing the deep-rooted inequalities that currently impede women from gaining equal access to productive resources and services.
Here are 23 women righting the wrongs of hunger that will be celebrated on International Women's Day, according to Food Tank:
- Rebecca Adamson—Adamson is founder and president of First Peoples Worldwide, an organization facilitating the use of traditional Indigenous knowledge in solving issues such as climate change and food security.
- Rucha Chitnis—Chitnis is the South Asia program director of Women’s Earth Alliance, mobilizing resources to grassroots, women-led groups who are working to secure women’s rights and food sovereignty.
- Ertharin Cousin—Cousin is the executive director of the U.N. World Food Programme. She leads the organization with more than 25 years of experience combating hunger and food issues worldwide.
- Grace Foster-Reid—Foster-Reid is the managing director of Ecofarms, a community-based business in Jamaica that produces honey products from her family’s farm.
- Stephanie Hanson—Hanson has been the director of policy and Outreach at One Acre Fund since 2009, which provides smallholder farmers in Africa with support, inputs and training, with the goal of doubling agricultural production on each acre of smallholder farmland.
- Wenonah Hauter—Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, Hauter has worked extensively on food, water, energy and environmental issues, and her book, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America, examines corporate control over our food system.
- Heather Hilleren—Hilleren is the founder and CEO of Local Dirt, an online platform for finding and buying fresh, local food directly from family farms.
- Saru Jayaraman—In 2001, Jayaraman began leading a national movement to improve conditions of food workers, and she founded Restaurant Opportunities Centers United.
- Sarah Kalloch—Kalloch is a senior advisor at Oxfam America and runs Oxfam’s Sisters on the Planet program, engaging more than 200 leading American women in anti-poverty advocacy.
- Nancy Karanja—Karanja is a professor of soil ecology and director of the Microbial Resource Centre at the University of Nairobi. From 2005 to 2009, Karanja was the sub-Saharan Africa regional coordinator for Urban Harvest, a CGIAR program with the goal of stimulating agriculture in and around cities to alleviate poverty and increase food security.
- Joan Karling—Karling is the secretary general of Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP). She helps safeguard the environment, preserve traditional knowledge and protect biodiversity through securing land rights for indigenous people.
- Myrna Cunningham Kain—Kain is the International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) special ambassador from Latin America, she is a social activist for the rights of Indigenous peoples with extensive experience and in 2001 she was named, “Hero of Health in the Americas.”
- Anna Lappe—Lappe is an expert on food systems and a sustainable food advocate, she has authored three books, and co-founder of the Small Planet Institute and the Small Planet Fund. Currently, she runs a new initiative, the Real Food Media Project, to spread the power of sustainable food.
- Federica Marra—Winner of the 2012 Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Young Earth Solutions competition, Marra created Manna From Our Roofs, an innovative organization that engages young people across the world in food cultivation, preservation, and education.
- Kathleen Merrigan—Merrigan is an expert on the relationship between farmers and politicians, she served as deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), playing a vital role in Know Your Farmer and Know Your Food initiatives. She currently serves as executive director of the Sustainability Institute at George Washington University.
- Anuradha Mittal—Mittal worked as the co-director of Food First Institute for Food and Development Policy and as an internationally renowned expert on development, human rights and agricultural issues.
- Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba—Mwamakamba is a program manager with the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), she coordinates the Youth and Gender Programme, aimed at developing a holistic agriculture policy framework in Africa that will support youth and women.
- Mariam Ouattara—From Cote d’Ivoire, Ouattara founded Slow Food Chigata, which encourages local women’s cooperatives to grow fruit and vegetable gardens. The chapter has also held workshops on how to produce ecologically sustainable food without chemicals.
- Esther Penunia-Banzuela—Penunia-Banzuela is the secretary general of the Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), a regional alliance of national farmer’s organizations.
- Claire Quenum—Quenum is the general secretary of the African Network on the Right to Food as well as director of the Togolose women’s right group Floraison. Through her work she promotes the right to adequate food in Africa.
- Sara Scherr—Scherr is the founder and president of Ecoagriculture Partners, a non-profit that works with agricultural communities around the world to develop ecoagriculture landscapes that enhance rural livelihoods, have sustainable and productive agricultural systems and conserve or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem services.
- Michele Simon—A public health lawyer specializing in strategies to counter tactics that harm the public’s health, Simon has been researching and writing about the food industry since 1996.
- Kanthi Wijekoon—A hero to other women, Wijekoon was arrested while she was trying to escape Sri Lanka to find a better life for her family. The Rural Women’s Front helped her get out of jail and she went on to lead programs reaching more than 600 women a year, increasing daily wages for women rice farmers.
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