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‘Women farmers crucial to fighting hunger’



GPEI lauds their role in polio eradication

AS women marked their day worldwide, leaders from the United Nations’ (UN) three Rome-based food agencies Monday gathered to remind the world that women farmers play central role in achieving food and nutrition security. This came as the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) Monday on the occasion of the International Women’s Day said that polio eradication would not be possible without the contribution of women. 

   At the Rome event, which marks the 20th anniversary of the landmark Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 (Beijing +20), leaders from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and World Food Programme (WFP) shared testimonials of their innovative interventions that have empowered rural women, and in doing so, have contributed to food security and nutrition. They also highlighted that promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment can significantly strengthen efforts to reduce rural poverty.

  IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze, said: “Women are the backbone of rural societies as they grow and process food and make sure their families are well-fed and well-nourished.

  “Too often, rural women are doing the backbreaking work. To improve women’s social and economic status, we need more recognition for the vital role they play in the rural economy. Rural women need more opportunities to participate, improve their skills, gain access to assets, and be involved in agricultural production and marketing. Let us all work together to empower women to achieve food and nutrition security for their sake and the sake of their families and communities.”

  Ertharin Cousin, executive director of WFP, who highlighted the innovative Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, which connects small holders to markets and in five years tripled women’s participation in P4P-supported farmers’ organisations in 20 countries, said: “Using WFP’s market power, the organisation directly and positively impacted the lives of 300,000 women. By purchasing crops traditionally cultivated by women, such as beans and soya, WFP demonstrated the key role rural women play as we work together to achieve a world with zero hunger.  While acknowledging the success of this programme we must scale up the lessons learned to ensure greater opportunities for more women.”

  Also, Marcela Villarreal, director of the Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development in FAO, said food security overall would improve significantly if women were empowered with the same opportunities that men have, and sounded a warning about the position of rural women, in particular.

 This year’s International Women’s Day has the theme “Make It Happen: Encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.”

   Women in polio eradication vaccinate children on the frontline, implement strong surveillance and data analysis systems, provide technical and scientific support to governments, and mobilize communities. 

     Melinda Mailhot of the World Health Organisation on the significance of this contribution, said: “Without the millions of women – mothers, aunts, and big sisters – who have accompanied their children to vaccination posts, opened their doors to vaccinators and worked to deliver the vaccine themselves, we would not be this close to eradicating polio.”

   A statement from GPEI released Monday reads: “In some of the remaining countries with polio, the ‘cultural capital’ of women makes them some of the most valuable assets to local polio teams. 

The true fight against polio takes place on the doorsteps of homes where vaccinators engage with parents on the need to protect their children. In many cases, women have a greater credibility and ability to gain trust: by speaking as concerned mothers who vaccinate their own children in Pakistan; by gaining access to households in Afghanistan where men cannot enter; by using the role of respected elder to give advice in Nigeria. In each of the areas where polio continues to circulate, women from even the most conservative areas have found socially acceptable ways to support the programme.

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