Putting women and girls front and centre in policy decisions and in programmes to tackle hunger and poverty is vital for reaching our goal of a Zero Hunger world by 2030. Reducing inequalities and removing barriers that exclude women from influencing development in all sectors advances food security.
This year's UN theme for International Women's Day – think equal, build smart, innovate for change – resonates with WFP's gender-transformative approach: working to give everyone lives of dignity, choice and opportunities. For example, our integrated programmes using cash transfers contribute to reducing gender-based violence, strengthening women's decision-making and increasing women's leadership.
"International Women's Day reminds us about the immense and valuable contribution women make towards a more peaceful, prosperous and well-fed world," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. "All around the globe, WFP programmes help empower women so they can have more opportunities to not just improve their lives, but those of their families, communities and nations."
Gender continues to be a critical component of our work. WFP is constantly challenging the status quo and working to achieve gender equality and women's empowerment through its programmes. School feeding programmes have demonstrated an increase in nutrition and education among girl students and contributed to a decrease in teen pregnancy and child marriage. Our Food for Assets projects have empowered women who now are able to work in their communities, feed their families, sell their produce and contribute towards the development of themselves and their families.
In southern Africa, where women often have the primary responsibility of providing for the family, their empowerment is a key driver of food and nutrition security.
WFP ensures that gender equality is a priority of all its interventions. In Zambia's Mumbwa district, for example, WFP is supporting women to produce, process and sell a range of nutritious indigenous foods, broadening and improving the diet of the entire community.
In war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo, WFP supports farming families headed by women to increase output, better access markets and build peace between traditionally rival ethnic groups.
Investments in women's farming skills, their stewardship of family finances and in female literacy are typical ingredients – and crucial to curbing sexual violence.
"If humanitarian organizations like the World Food Programme are to succeed in helping to end hunger by the global deadline of 2030, ensuring women play their rightful roles is essential," said Lola Castro, WFP's Regional Director for southern Africa. "There isn't a more powerful tool for development."