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-focused 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 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 action 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 well-being 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 develop. 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!