WFP Works with Women to Reach Zero Hunger: Empowerment is the Key! (c) WFP/Ala Kheir 2015
© WFP/Ala Kheir 2015

Working with Women to Reach Zero Hunger: Empowerment is the Key!

By Kawinzi Muiu, Director of the Gender Office, World Food Programme

January 11, 2016

Originally posted on One World (Netherlands). English translation by Daphné Carliez, SAFE Global Coordinator and Communications, WFP.

A world without hunger. That is what Director of the Gender office of the World Food Programme, Kawinzi Muiu, is fighting for. She is an advocate for equal opportunities, an equal voice, and equal access to resources and food.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 80 million people with food assistance every year. At WFP, we believe that you can’t tackle hunger if you don’t know who is hungry, and why.

Here at WFP, we know that solving hunger is not just about having food. It is about knowing who produces it, who prepares it safely, who can and can’t access it and who has to buy it. Understanding these issues, which might seem to be very simple at first glance, can really go a long way in helping us address hunger, food security and nutrition. We believe that a world without hunger will be achieved when everyone has equal opportunities, equal access to resources, and an equal voice.  


Women and girls play an essential role in defeating hunger. It is a fact that over 60% of the world’s hungry people are women. Added to that, in the countries where WFP operates, women are usually responsible for both their own and their family’s health and food security. So, when women are disempowered or hungry, it has a resounding impact on their communities and society as a whole. As a woman, a mother and a daughter this issue is very close to my heart. Women from villages all over the world, like my mother, make efforts to send their girls to school. Because my mother insisted on her daughters going to school, today I am the Director of WFP’s Gender Office. Her efforts made it so that I can take care of my children and can contribute to the development of the global community. Changing one life today can change lives tomorrow.

I wish to share with you the story of Zara from Bangladesh that I think showcases why women are key to unlocking zero hunger. Under a WFP programme, Zara receives a monthly cash transfer, small business grant and training in business skills. Part of the aim of this programme is to impact food security and nutrition by offering opportunities for poor women to take on new roles in their households and communities. These new skills and resources have allowed Zara to step outside traditional gender roles of domestic care work. She has invested money in a small business and used the profits to send her children to school. Her children are no longer malnourished, and they are benefiting from being in school and receiving an education. On top of this, her husband is very supportive.


Stories like Zara’s inspire me and my colleagues at WFP. Zara and her courageous path towards self-empowerment prove that helping to empower one woman can change more than one life. If we can unleash the potential of women, we can change the world.

Assisting people to have access to food cannot be separated from understanding the safety, health, and environmental issues linked to eating and preparing food. That is why, here at WFP, we are working on creative and innovative programmes that seek to address this. Through the SAFE initiative (Safe Access to Fuel and Energy) we work with women and girls in coming up with practical solutions to the dangers associated with collecting and using firewood for cooking. Women and girls are trained to make more fuel-efficient and more affordable cook stoves and fire-fuel briquettes for their own use and for sale. These new skills enable women to earn an income while also reducing the health hazards linked to smoke inhalation. By 2020, SAFE is projected to reach more than 10 million women and girls, men, and boys. To me, that is 10 million more stories like Zara’s.

The SAFE initiative was originally designed to provide protection against gender-based violence, especially for women, by decreasing the need to travel long distances, through dangerous areas, to collect firewood. We continue this work in many ways. Every year 25 November and 10 December the United Nations agencies and funds unite in the fight against gender based violence through 16 days of Activism campaign. WFP works to end violence against women through prevention, empowerment and food assistance.


Last year’s theme for the 16 Days is 'Orange the World'. Orange was chosen to represent the campaign as it is a bright and optimistic colour. I know that orange is also an important colour for the Netherlands, so I encourage you to join the campaign and help us to Orange the World.

I know that to make a difference, we have to look at the whole picture. With effective assistance, we can change lives of more people, not only Zara and her family. When we work to empower women and girls, we have to work with men and boys too. Governments, civil society and the private sector also have huge roles to play. We all need to be engaged and take action. Working together, we can make a difference.