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How The Hunger Project Chooses to Challenge

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The Hunger Project Australia is celebrating one of our favourite days on the calendar – International Women’s Day!

This year’s theme is “Choose to Challenge” which aligns so beautifully with THP’s work challenging the status quo about what people – particularly women – are capable of when their potential and leadership is unlocked and unleashed.

We invited THP leaders and partners from across Australia and the world to share how they choose to challenge the status quo. This is what they said…

“To me, choosing to challenge the status quo means to rethink the way things are and create an inclusive world. Empowering women to be key change agents is essential to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. So wherever we work, The Hunger Project aims to support women and build their capacity to create brighter possibilities for tomorrow, today.”

“Choosing to challenge the status quo means creating a world of equal rights and opportunities for women who constitute half the planet. Let us commit ourselves to this now till the job is done.”

“We are challenged to bring about positive change and development.”

“The status quo works for no one. Equality means leaving no woman behind.”

“I choose to challenge because we as women leaders need to rise up to the challenges of our community.”

“I choose to challenge the status quo because as a woman I can use my capabilities to support the development of my community.”

“Choosing to challenge the status quo means means creating a more human world of work, where people are focused, calm, resilient, and even happy at work.  Through the mind training work I do with the Potential Project, I’m proud to be making a tangible difference through partnering with THP on their work unlocking and unleashing the leadership of women globally to end hunger. If you care about lifting women up to create more potential, then follow them on socials or better yet make an investment in their work if you can.”

“I choose to challenge because women of Bangladesh are subjugated, marginalised and deprived because of the patriarchy. We men largely represent patriarchy, so when you’re confronting patriarchy we are really fighting with ourselves, and this is what we are engaged in.”

Make an Impact.

The biggest way you can make an impact today is to invest in women who are bringing clean water and electricity to their villages. Invest in a businesswoman who is putting her dreams on the line to bring economic stability to her family. Invest in the women leaders who are standing up against hunger in their communities.

Rebecka’s business is sending her children to school

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Rebecka is a farmer and mother of five from Boti in Ghana. Rebecka has become an entrepreneur thanks to her partnership with The Hunger Project.

Rebecka participated in the microfinance program implemented in her community by The Hunger Project. Thanks to this program, she was able to take out four different microfinance loans.

With the money from the first loan of 100 cedis (the local currency equivalent to about AUD$22), she took it and invested it in her sustainable palm oil and agriculture farming business. She made a small profit and repaid the loan back quickly.

For her other microfinance loans she was able to buy a motorcycle which she now leases to people in her community. Motorcycles are useful for transport in rural communities and leasing them out allows her to pay off the loans and make some money on the side.

“It’s a big encouragement for me to have my own business. I feel proud to be self-employed and not work for somebody else,” Rebecka said.

Thanks to the money she’s now earning from  her business she can afford to send her children to school. Rebecka has lifted her family out of hunger and with her children attending school they too are keeping themselves out of the cycle of hunger. Her husband has even decided to take part in some of The Hunger Project’s training programs, but she asserts that she is financially independent.

“My husband helps me with my business, but I take care of the money. My money is my money. 

 “I like to be employed by myself, I’m proud of my company,” she said.

Rebecka has bigger dreams and a wider vision for her business. She would like to expand her business in the future to a bigger farm, reaching more communities and she wants to partner with The Hunger Project as she does it

I need to buy larger pots for the palm oil so that I can produce larger quantities. I’m quickly outgrowing myself. When I have paid off the latest loan, I want to take out another microfiance loan, with the lessons I learnt from The Hunger Project, so I can buy more pots.

“My plans now are to expand the business so that I can move from the family farm and build my own house with my husband and our children,” she said.  

Inspired by Rebecka’s story? Invest now and empower more women like Rebecka so they too can lift themselves and their families out of hunger.

Why Women are Key to Ending Hunger

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By Rita Sarin, Global Vice President and Country Director of The Hunger Project India.

As a development practitioner working in the field of social development for over 40 years, I am convinced that women-focussed and women-centred strategies are key to ending hunger, poverty and inequity across the globe.

Why do I say so? Let us unpack this.

A major part of my work has been with the elected women representatives to village councils in India and this work has proven that when more women occupy decision-making positions, a mindset of concern and inclusive development for all starts; where women look out for the last person in their communities. Equipped with the right skills, knowledge and processes so they can access systems, women leaders not only become articulate in their vision, thoughts and action but they also strive to leave no stone unturned in achieving the ‘last mile delivery’. By adopting inclusive and equitable development strategies, women leaders tackle the issues of extreme hunger and poverty in their communities, as well as help create and sustain an equal and just society.

Why is it that women leaders adapt certain strategies over their male counterparts?

We all know that women have always centred their actions and lives around their families and communities. As primary caregivers they have always taken actions to meet the basic nutritional needs and health of their families. Therefore, there cannot be a more potent and direct relationship between women’s thoughts, concerns and actions and the wellbeing of their family/community.

Our work has shown that whenever women are in decision-making positions, their first action is to address hunger, malnutrition, hygiene and sanitation in their families and communities, followed by safe drinking water and education. These are the basic needs for any community to survive and develop. Be it food security and nutrition, health, education, sanitation, and now, awareness and support for COVID-19, women leaders are the frontline workers and will remain so no matter what.

Let me state unequivocally that when you empower a woman, the whole village and community develops. If you do not invest in her skills and capacities as the changemaker, generations will suffer from hunger and malnutrition, as is evident today.

To quote one woman leader “We do not allow even our neighbour’s child to sleep without food”. Therefore, the narrative of investing in women to end hunger is as clear as existence itself!

Kemi Nekvapil leads THP workshops

Flourish In The Next Phase – with Kemi Nekvapil

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“It is up to communities to drive the change they wish to see in the world.” – Kemi Nekvapil.

We were so honoured to host a THP Leadership Workshop ‘Flourish In The Next Phase’ with Kemi Nekvapil. A huge thank you to Kemi who facilitated a thought-provoking session, and to everyone who joined for contributing to the conversation about what we have learnt during lockdown and what we want to take with us into the next phase.

For those of you who weren’t able to join, you can catch up by watching the recording below.

Kemi’s Invitation To You.

As Kemi mentioned, we invite you to take this one action today to create a world that works for everyone by investing in our Stay In, Reach Out campaign. A little goes a long way:

  • Giving what you would spend on a coffee could fund the construction of a Tippy Tap (simple foot operated handwashing station) so a family has access to hand washing in their home; or
  • The cost of a week’s worth of coffee could buy a food parcel for highly vulnerable families in India for a month

It’s simple. Give the equivalent of what you would spend on the things you can’t do right now, and instead enable others to do what they can in order to keep safe! If you’re not in the position to give, then please help us by sharing the campaign instead.

Stay In Touch With Kemi.

To stay in touch with Kemi, please go to her website

Meet Jessie.

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Jessie is 41 years old and lives in the Nsondole community in Malawi. Jessie and her husband have five children.

“My number one vision is to educate my children,” she says.

Jessie has been receiving farm input loans from The Hunger Project since 2017. With these loans, she has been able to purchase seeds to grow maize and rice which she can use to feed her family. She then sells any leftover produce at the market. With the money they made selling their produce at the market, Jessie and her husband invested in a sewing machine, which her husband used to set up a tailoring business.

With two incomes to support them, everyone in the family now has three meals a day. Now, Jessie’s goal is to buy a motorcycle so her family can get around much more easily.

“My household is doing much better now. We are practising new planting methods and special farming methods so now my family doesn’t have to live in hunger and I can send my children to school.”

Jeremy Meltzer on his trip to Bangladesh.

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Jeremy Meltzer is the Founder of i=change, a tech platform for online retailers that makes it simple for brands to give back to women’s empowerment projects with every sale. So far, i=change has donated an incredible $111,169 (and counting) to The Hunger Project’s programs empowering women and girls in Bangladesh via 23 brand partnerships. 

Jeremy recently travelled to Bangladesh to see how the organisations i=change support are making an impact. Travelling with The Hunger Project Bangladesh team, he spent two days in an area called Manikganj, about 1.5 hours drive out of Dhaka, a very remote area that does not often host foreigners. He met with our village partners to gain an insight into the issues they face in Bangladesh and how our work is enabling people to transform their communities.  

We chatted to Jeremy after he returned from his trip to hear what he learnt on the ground. 

i=change has raised over $1.7 million for causes since it began. As the Founder, what is your vision for connecting customers, causes and brands in this way? 

It started from a desire to make an impact and create change for women and girls. I saw a lot of violence in Latin America in my early twenties and was very moved and upset by what I saw. I travelled around the world and met with NGO leaders and gained an insight into how extraordinarily complex these issues are. Of course, the NGO’s need more funding to do more of their work. Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I thought about how to bring these two worlds together. How could they exist in a way they haven’t before? It was about feeling, instinctively, that it must be possible to unite these two worlds in a way that could create significant benefits and, ultimately, create a new sustainable funding stream for women’s empowerment projects. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in Bangladesh and how you saw The Hunger Project’s work in the communities? 

For all potential investors wanting to accelerate change, I believe the best thing you can do is visit these countries and communities; sit with the people, listen, learn and be immersed in their culture. It provides a remarkable insight into the complexity of the work — just sitting with the local teams who have been committed to working within their communities for decades. They have a deep pool of knowledge about how to create change in communities that have have entrenched beliefs which, regardless of the harm it may cause, are often unyielding and fixated to a practice as it’s simply “the way it’s always been done”. Like all of us, we don’t know what we don’t know. It’s about how to take communities on a journey that unlocks their own potential and growth and delivers significant benefits to the whole community.  

Seeing the work The Hunger Project is doing in Bangladesh was very inspiring. What I really appreciate is how THP is committed to the process of unlocking the potential that people already have — they may simply need more skills and understanding in order to see the benefits for themselves. It’s about investing in long-term, community-led development, which we now understand is best practice in international development. This means working with what the community already has, which is their knowledge of the land and what works, and the nuances of their religious and cultural beliefs. We can think about working within that framework to help them see the greater possibilities when, for example, their cultural lens shifts and they don’t marry off their girls, or they work just as hard to keep their daughters in schools as their sons and understand their daughter’s wellbeing is intricately tied to the social and economic prosperity of the entire community.  

The cycle of subjugation of women and girls is severe in Bangladesh, and child marriage is common. What was your insight into those issues when you were there? 

I met a girl named Keya who was determined to stop her own marriage. Her parents had found a boy in their village and were preparing for her marriage. 

She worked with the male elders in her community so they could see the benefits of not marrying her off as a fifteen-year-old. In a very poor, remote Bangladeshi village, here was a girl with fire in her eyes. She realised she had to bring the male leaders in the community on this journey with her in order to change her destiny.  

She looked us deeply in the eyes and said, “I was determined not to be married.” 

She heard the work THP was doing and had been to one of the meetings about child marriage in her village. She understood it was her right to not be married, and that child marriage would harm her and her community.  

It’s an important story because girls are often painted as victims, but the girls we met were strong. Keya was strong.  

Her eyes lit up when she told us what she was doing. She was now still at school and doesn’t plan to be married for a long time. When she does, she explained she will have a small family only. 

I also spoke with one man in particular who you wouldn’t, on first glance, assume as someone who stood for women’s empowerment. He spoke very gently about how marrying off girls was not in the Quran and is actually a cultural practice that needs to be stopped. The engagement of men in the community and how they had become quite passionate advocates for change was very inspiring to see. In patriarchal communities — indeed, in most countries in the world — this is where it has to begin. Men need to be taken on the journey and understand how these practices do harm to everyone.

How could you see The Hunger Project’s programs in Bangladesh transforming communities? 

In a school we interviewed a number of women who were working in the community on a number of levels. One was a doctor in a poor, rural clinic, making sure young women could give birth safely (which in these communities often means not dying). We met another woman who is a counsellor, working with women survivors of sexual and physical abuse. 

It was inspiring to see such strong women stepping up to be the change. There were girls who went on a march that we participated in who chanted ‘we must end child marriage’. These school-aged girls, the average age probably 15 or younger, were passionately marching while the men led in front and behind, chanting equally as passionately for the end of child marriage. 

Of course, there’s no silver bullet to any of these complex issues. Yet even in this distant, rural community which most foreigners will never see, there was this galvanising, community-driven sense that the way we treat women and girls must change if we wish to thrive. It’s a global message that, while it filters slower to the poor and more rural corners of the world, is still a message that is being delivered and, slowly, being heard.

Even in those few days we spent in that community, there was a sense of change. The women we met were strong, proud, and less prepared to accept a patriarchal world view — and the ideas that hold them back — more than ever.


See the full list of i=change brands that support The Hunger Project.
If you’re an online retailer and wish to find out more about making an impact with your business and the benefits it can bring, check out the i=change website

Empowering women is more important than ever in the face of climate change

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We know that climate change has caused levels of people living in chronic hunger to rise since 2015.

Women are likely to feel the effects of climate change and reduced supply even more profoundly than their male counterparts as social conditions force them to accept less of diminishing resources. As the primary providers of food and water, especially during the dry season when men leave to work in urban areas, rural women will be forced to walk further to collect supplies for their families as water becomes less accessible.

UN agencies estimate that 80% of people displaced globally due to climate change are women. They have been forced to move due to inhospitable conditions, lack of resources, or conflict resulting from water and food shortages.

Often we can overlook social solutions, such as gender equality, in response to climate change and focus majorly on technological and scientific solutions, such as electric cars. A combination of addressing and utilising both are essential to solving climate change.

Project Drawdown, a global research project which identifies and assesses solutions to climate change, has identified three solutions that stem from improving the rights and wellbeing of women and girls. According to Project Drawdown, addressing the following factors simultaneously has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases pollution by over 100 gigatonnes by 2050. This is equivalent to what the world has produced over the last three years.

Family planning

Ensuring every woman in developing countries has access to family planning not only improves the lives of women and children but also helps tackle climate change. To attain the UN’s population recommendation of 9.7 billion by 2050, family planning is necessary to slow population growth, which will therefore decrease the burden on natural resources.


Educated women have more choices open to them. In developing countries, however, girls face many barriers that stop them from going to school including child marriage, harassment or a lack of facilities at school. When girls are educated they are empowered, this will curb population growth. Education also builds resilience and equips girls with skills to face the challenges that climate change presents.


Women in agriculture face a variety of obstacles and constraints that their male counterparts do not, such as lack of access to training, machinery, and new technology. In developing countries, women in agriculture commonly lack the economic resources and income to invest in agricultural technologies and the knowledge to improve their practices. Providing women in developing countries with greater access to resources and land could produce greater crop and livestock yields, producing more food from the land and reducing pressure for deforestation.

With the proper adaptive techniques, communities can learn to adjust to the new realities of their environments while working to lessen the impact of climate change. Rural populations already have a low environmental impact as compared to urban ones, and small changes can go a long way in adjusting to new conditions. Women in Ethiopian villages, for example, invest in more durable homes, utilising The Hunger Project’s Epicentre credit savings programs to build structures that can protect their families against both natural and man-made changes. 

It is more important than ever that we all continue to empower women around the world.

Bizuhaye Terefe Goes Back to School

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Originally published by The Hunger Project Nederland.

In the North Shoha region of Ethiopia, The Hunger Project is actively working with the Her Choice alliance to end of child marriages and enabling girls to re-enrol in school. Often, these are girls who have dropped out of school after a child marriage or teenage pregnancy. The Hunger Project empowers girls so that they can finish their education and transform their situations for themselves and their children.

Bizuhaye Terefe, 19 years old, lives in the village of Wujiba with her aunt and five-year-old son, Abity. She has been going back to school for two years now.

Bizuhaye is happy that she can go back to school after she had to leave when she was just 13 years old.

“When I was 13, I was raped and then I got pregnant. That was a very nasty experience. I’m still sad about that,” Bizuhaye says. “Because I was expecting, I had to quit school — that’s how it works here. I was living with my grandmother at the time because my mother had died a year earlier. After Abity was born, I lived with grandma for a while, but she could no longer care for us. Fortunately my aunt, Genzeb, then took us in.”

Image credit: Johannes Ode

The Hunger Project started the Her Choice program in the region two years ago. They empower and run activities for girls who left school too early to give them the chance to go back to school. Like Bizuhaye, these girls are usually married early or pregnant.

“I was visited by the school director, asking if Bizuhaye wanted to come back to school. Of course I wanted to help her, but I had no money for pens, notebooks, uniform and other school supplies. The Hunger Project then took care of that so Bizuhaye could go back to school!” says Genzeb.

Bizuhaye says, “I really enjoy going back to school. My favourite subject is English. My dream is to become a pilot later, that seems great. I can therefore earn a lot of money and help my family. If I later become a pilot and my future husband has a busy job, I want to plan the arrival of even more children. I certainly want to have four children, but I want to be ready for it. Abity can then become a big brother. It will take a while before the time comes. First I want to finish high school and study. And my son will also go to school from next year. “

Breaking the Cycle in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh has an extreme child malnutrition rate.

After a devastating famine in 1974, there was an enormous flow of aid to Bangladesh that was required to sustain the country. Reliance on foreign aid has now created a mindset of dependancy for the government and people of Bangladesh.

Twenty-four million people live below the poverty line, the majority of which are women and children. A major factor that contributes to this is the severe subjugation of women and girls that exists in Bangladesh. Discrimination starts right at birth as the birth of a boy is favoured. Girls are breast-fed  for weeks less than boys. They are fed least and last in the family. Malnourished girls are then married off young and give birth to malnourished babies. The cycle continues.


How are we breaking this cycle?

Research shows, however, that when women are empowered, all of society benefits. When women have equal rights and earn an income, they reinvest that in things like health, nutrition and education for their families. This means that they are empowering themselves and generations to come to end their own hunger.

The Hunger Project has created initiatives that break the cycle of discrimination. We train women and men as Animators (local volunteer leaders) who are deeply engaged in bringing about real and lasting change across Bangladesh. We work at a grassroots level in select rural areas to deliver training and workshops. This includes Women’s Leadership training that provides intensive education in gender equality and legal/reproductive rights to at least two women per village.

These women then become a resource to all the women in their village, launching campaigns to stop domestic violence and child marriage for good, and educating others to transform their communities so women and girls can flourish.

Invest in a hunger-free Bangladesh today.

Meet Razia: Protesting Child Marriage

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In Bangladesh, boys are typically valued more than girls. Girls are often pulled out of school at a young age to be married off. They aren’t able to earn an income for themselves or have a say in family decisions. They are made to look after their siblings and families, do the household chores and other manual labour instead.  

After being forced to marry at 15 years old (three years before the legal age of 18), Razia was denied an education and was forced to stay at home and provide for her new husband and start a family. No one protested her marriage. Like other girls her age who were being married, Razia soon gave birth to a boy and a girl.   

“I thought child marriage was my fate,” she says. 

She couldn’t see a way to break out of the cycle of poverty and stop own daughter from becoming a victim of child marriage just like she had been. 

The Hunger Project runs programs such as Women’s Leadership Workshops in rural communities in Bangladesh. These workshops empower women with knowledge and skills they can use to develop their own businesses to transform their situation, lift their families out of poverty, and enable other women in their village to do the same

After receiving training from The Hunger Project, Razia began a new enterprise from home — sewing — which has brought in an income. She also started a women’s self-help group to help other women save money to reinvest in their family on important things like education.  

Razia now works from home earning her own income. As she earned more income, her confidence grew. She looked to use her newfound influence to shift the perspective on local issues close to her heart, and now protests against child marriage in her village.  

I’ve learned how to raise poultry and livestock, and sew. Because of this, I now have enough savings to easily support the health and education of my children. I’ve also been able to send my own daughter to The Hunger Project’s Youth Leadership Training. Now she collaborates with other young people around here to create a harmonious society free from child marriage.  

In addition, I’ve set up my own compost plant to produce organic fertiliser for my home garden. I’ve now encouraged 20 other women in my neighbourhood to set up their own organic compost plants too.” 

The women’s group have written a list of children who have dropped out of school in the village. They are working to support them to return to studying.   

“Now, I work to protest against child marriage and make people aware of its consequences,” Razia says.