Developing strategies to end hunger
 

203 posts categorized "Millennium Development Goals"

What the Nigerian girls can teach us about women's empowerment

Nigerian Girls 012

Bring Back Our Girls is big news. In Washington DC, where I work, the media was out last Friday to report on a vigil for more than 200 Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Earlier that morning, I attended a briefing at the Capitol by the nongovernmental organization PCI on the difficulties of trying to measure women’s empowerment. The room was packed with representatives of other NGOs, but I didn’t notice any media. The briefing was titled Measuring the Hard to Measure, which says a lot about why development programs struggle to provide effective help in reducing gender inequality, and maybe about why the media isn't interested yet.

The two events occurred on the same day purely by coincidence, but it seems fitting that they were happening together. On the one hand, we’ve got the backlash represented by Boko Haram, men who feel threatened by the thought of women being less than submissive to their demands. On the other, empowerment programs have mostly been about increasing the rate of girls attending school -- relatively easy stuff. Looking ahead we have to face up to the challenge that there is much harder work to do in reducing gender inequalities, and a lot more backlash inevitably. The guys in Boko Haram have a lot more to fear than girls going to school and they know it.  

Increasing women’s participation rates in public office has proven much more difficult than increasing school attendance. Globally, women hold an average of just 22 percent of seats in national parliaments. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) call for reaching 30 percent by the end of 2015. 

It is interesting to observe how income does little to reduce the gender gap in political representation. Developed countries have done only slightly better than developing ones, and neither group will meet the MDG target. Both started out alike in 1990 - the MDG baseline year - with an average of 13 percent. Presently developed countries have reached 25 percent and developing countries 21 percent.

Progress has been slow because of discriminatory laws, underinvestment in woman’s human capital, norms that cast doubt on their decision making capacity, and unpaid care work that takes up a disproportionate share of women’s time compared to men’s…among other things. But those are some important ones for starters. The confluence of so many inequalities makes it hard to disentangle them to address individually. That was the take away from the PCI briefing. Gender inequality is a multidimensional problem demanding multidimensional solutions. 

Gender inequalities will persist as long as the political will to address them is lacking, or I suspect until women’s participation in politics reaches a tipping point.  Todd

New Data: Social Norms Pose Unchecked Threat to Women’s Empowerment

The World Bank recently released the 2014 World Development Indicators—the most current and accurate collection of global and country-level development data available. Each year, the World Bank works to expand and improve the body of data available to more consistently gauge progress on an ever-growing number of development variables.

Women’s empowerment is an area where data has been notoriously inconsistent and incomplete. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000, included a goal to “promote gender equality and empower women” as MDG 3. But meeting a goal depends greatly on its indicators of success. The MDGs defined progress on women’s empowerment almost exclusively by whether girls have equal access to primary education and by whether more women are serving in national parliaments. By those measures, the world has indeed made great strides since 2000. Today the global gender gap in access to both primary and secondary education is nearly closed, and about one in five parliamentarians in the developing world is now female (Rwanda's parliament is majority female). Yet, there are significant limitations to what the current MDG indicators can tell us about how empowered women are throughout the world.

Percent of Women who believe a husband is justified in beating his wife when she argues with him

One of the more revealing new datasets released by the World Bank this year shows that in many countries, a large number of people – both women and men – do not support women’s equal participation in household decisions. One of the starkest demonstrations of this is shown in the graphic above, which lists the 10 countries with the highest proportion of women who agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife when she argues with him.  

There may not be many areas of consensus in the development community, but the belief that women are the key to ending hunger and extreme poverty is one of them. Women’s dual roles as producers and caregivers make them essential actors in every family. When women share decision-making power equally with men in the household and in society, their families are healthier and more prosperous. The next generation is better off because women, more than men, spend their additional income on feeding and educating their children. And generally, two capable adults working in partnership can accomplish far more than one can alone.

Legal rights are necessary but not sufficient. As the global community reaches consensus on the set of global goals that will replace the MDGs in 2016, it will need to diversify its toolbox of indicators for measuring women’s empowerment, adding indicators that capture the influence of less tangible factors like cultural norms and stigmas. Countries will need to explore ways to help men and women examine and question these staunch norms that undermine women’s agency. Women who see themselves as equals who are entitled to express their opinions without fear of violence will be better equipped to provide for their own families and contribute to a healthier society and economy.

  Derek Schwabe

Success in Fighting Hunger: Global Extreme Poverty Cut in Half

Hunger Report Monday 2

Editor’s note: Welcome to Institute Notes’ blog series on Success in Fighting Hunger. Today, Derek Schwabe shares a big-picture global success story that is not as well-known as it should be. Later in the series, our Institute colleagues present more “things that are working.” Today’s smaller success stories -- programs whose potential impact is seemingly modest -- are not only of vital importance to the people who participate, but may well contain the kernels of large-scale future progress. Thus, this series celebrates sustainable progress against hunger, no matter what its scale. 

- Michele Learner, editor of Institute NotesPoverty Falls Across the Developing World, 500 pix

Too few people know this, but more people escaped poverty during the 2000s than during any other decade in history. More importantly, progress on not only poverty, but hunger, child mortality, and a host of other debilitating human problems occurred in every major region of the world. Bill Gates was right in his foundation’s myth-busting 2014 annual letter: “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been.” 

The chart above shows that the world has already met and surpassed the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015 -- as measured by the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 per day. The chart below digs deeper into that data, revealing that, though poverty reduction has been slower in some regions than in others, it has indeed occurred in every region. Both of these graphics first appeared in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals.Extreme Poverty Falls in Every Region of the Developing World, 500 pix

It may not be possible to prove a direct causal link, but it is no coincidence that this progress coincided with global efforts to reach the MDGs. When the MDGs were launched in the year 2000, leaders from every country in the world pledged their support. Few could have known at the time how influential these goals would become.

Since 2000, the MDGs have been the dominant global development framework, and they have galvanized public support around the world for ending hunger and extreme poverty. Individual countries have used them as a model for their own national development plans. Civil society groups, particularly faith-based ones, have been loyal advocates of the MDGs, dedicated to holding government leaders accountable for following through on their pledges.

As the December 2015 deadline for the MDGs fast approaches, and leaders inch toward consensus on what should replace them, we should pause to celebrate the power of goal-setting. Developing new post-2015 goals offers a rare opportunity to enable national leaders and communities to set their own country-specific development goals. The experiences of countries as different as Ghana, Brazil, Rwanda, Vietnam, and Bangladesh have proven that with good leadership and a comprehensive, country-owned, and data–driven strategy, setting goals can work on a national level too.

Development organizations such as the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development have embraced the goal-setting approach of the MDGs and are now rallying behind an ambitious goal:  to eradicate extreme poverty worldwide by 2030. Here in our own country, Bread for the World is urging President Obama to do the same, starting with a goal to end U.S. hunger. Development experts and economists agree that, thanks to the successes of recent decades, such a goal is now within reach. 

Get the full global success story of the MDGs in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goalsand learn about what it would take to eliminate U.S. hunger in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America.

Derek Schwabe

MFAN Charts “The Way Forward: A New Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond”

A single statistic—the world is home to 842 million chronically hungry men, women, and children—is enough to show that effective U.S. foreign assistance is urgently needed. We must make every dollar count, because the lives of millions of people and the quality of life of hundreds of millions more depend on it.

Last week, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) issued a fresh call for U.S. foreign assistance reform, citing examples of how reforms will lead to more effective development. In its new policy paper, The Way Forward: A New Reform Agenda for 2014 and Beyond, MFAN emphasizes that development and development co-operation need to promote inclusive, accountable partnerships that support country-led processes that will improve the lives of hungry and poor people. The U.S. government is in a better position today to build on past achievements, redouble its reform efforts, and accelerate progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is the time.

Roadside Market, NicaraguaRoadside Market, Nicaragua. Photo credit: Bread for the World

Country ownership—the idea that countries should decide on and direct their own development priorities—is the foundation of sustainable development. This is what will bring lasting change.Country ownership was one of four basic principles for development cooperation agreed upon by development stakeholders, including major aid donors, at the most recent high-level forum on aid effectiveness, in November 2011 in Busan, Korea. The Busan forum builds on commitments made in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in 2005 and the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action.

For several years now, country ownership has been gaining traction across the donor community. Development partners, including the U.S. government, are making commitments to support capacity development in areas that respond to the needs and priorities of local actors in countries. This commitment recognizes that country ownership requires strong, effective institutions in both government and civil society. These are built over time, not overnight. In turn, countries adopt strategic priorities that focus on long-term impact in order to reduce hunger and poverty.

In the two and a half years since the Busan forum, country ownership has also emerged as a key element of U.S. foreign assistance reform efforts. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development has rebranded the Implementation and Procurement Reform (IPR) component of USAID Forward as Local Solutions.

This is a good first step. The hard work has just begun.

The need for U.S. food aid reform is one good example. The practice of buying food aid on local and regional markets for distribution, for instance, can be both quicker and more cost effective than traditional in-kind food aid. The flexibility and timeliness of such programs mean that humanitarian organizations can deliver food aid when it’s most needed while supporting local systems, markets, and communities so that countries are better equipped to provide for their people in the future.

This is “The Way Forward.”

Faustine Wabwire

A Climate to End Hunger: Agriculture Is Part of the Problem and the Solution

Hunger Report Monday 2 Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Economic Sectors

Editor’s note: Welcome to Bread for the World Institute’s blog series on A Climate to End Hunger. The other day when I realized that Earth Day was approaching, I winced at my conflation of Earth Day with climate change. But it makes sense. Climate change is the biggest threat yet to Earth’s environment – and increasingly widespread hunger is one of its most tragic potential consequences. In this series, we reflect on how we can help prevent such a catastrophe. 

Today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III published the third and final contribution, Mitigation of Climate Change, to the organization’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report. Working Group III, made up of hundreds of the world’s leading scientists, was tasked with surveying thousands of the latest peer-reviewed studies to gauge the current status of climate change, the hazards it poses to humanity, and, of course, what people can do to prevent and/or cope with those hazards. The Guardian’s Leo Hickman summed up the group’s findings best – and at Tweetable length:

Climate change is real. We are to blame. It will get worse if we fail to act. The solutions are available and affordable. But time is short.

The group’s findings support the warning – stronger than ever – of the threat posed by climate change not only to hungry and poor people, but to the entire global economy. Climate change is increasingly straining global food systems. The message to policymakers is that if all countries, rich and poor alike, do not act quickly and cooperatively, the hard-won global progress against hunger and extreme poverty of the past few decades could be rapidly undone.

More specifically, climate change threatens global food security by causing declining crop yields; disruptions in food access, utilization, and price stability; and significantly reduced access to water, food security, and agricultural incomes in rural communities.

As the report’s chart (above) shows, about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the “Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use” (AFOLU) sector — more than by the transport and building sectors combined. Sustainable agricultural practices will be crucial to reducing AFOLU emissions while still producing enough food for the growing population. Promising mitigation options include afforestation and sustainable forest management, improved cropland management, and restoration of organic soils.

At its core, responding effectively to climate change means building resilience in communities where people have always struggled to produce enough food. It demands strong and organized political leadership, infrastructure, and resources at all levels — local, regional, national, and global. Strengthening local capacity to create and implement informed, effective adaptation strategies is vital to building resilience.

Chapter 5 of the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, examines how agriculture has been part of the climate change problem, and more importantly, how it must be part of the solution. Visit www.hungerreport.org to read more.   Derek Schwabe

A Timely Call to Action

Photo 2 for IFPRI
Photo by Todd Post/Bread for the World


IFPRI’s Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) has become an annual reminder that global food security must remain very much at the top of the development agenda. This year’s report, the third, underscores that with more than 840 million people hungry, addressing hunger and malnutrition is a moral imperative. The report comes out just as the Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals begins to discuss the Focus Areas for the post- 2015 global development framework. Its recommendations are very timely to feed into the working group’s discussion, which starts March 31, and I hope they do.

The report captures the recent political momentum on nutrition and makes very clear that we can no longer talk about ending hunger without also addressing malnutrition. Undernutrition in the first 1,000 days between pregnancy and age 2 accounts for nearly half of all preventable deaths of children under 5. For children who survive, the consequences are life altering. They suffer irreversible physical and cognitive damage that affects their long-term health and productivity.

Stunting is the outward manifestation of the devastation caused by undernutrition. Today, there are 162 million children who are stunted. That is one in four children under 5. From the very beginning of their lives, their potential and their ability to lift themselves out of hunger and poverty is severely compromised. In addition, they are more likely to become overweight and obese as adults—the double burden of malnutrition. Two billion people are obese or overweight globally; the number of obese or overweight children under 5 has doubled since 1990 and is expected to double again by 2025. This is a global crisis that affects all countries.

The GFPR raises the level of ambition ahead of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development framework by calling for the end of hunger and malnutrition by 2025. Analyzing the success of four countries, the report makes a compelling case that the right mix of agriculture, social protection, and nutrition policies can lead to dramatic progress in reducing hunger and stunting.  This multisectoral approach to nutrition has been embraced and championed by the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement.

Nutrition is included in the OWG’s Focus Areas along with Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. The two indicators directly related to nutrition under consideration in this focus area are: ensuring year-round access by all to affordable, adequate, safe, and nutritious food; and ending child malnutrition and stunting. It would be great to see these indicators make it through into the final recommendation from the OWG. In addition, given the multisectoral nature of malnutrition, the OWG should include indicators under the health, gender, WASH, and education focus areas. NGOs working on nutrition advocacy have developed a set of recommended goals, targets, and indicators. These build and expand on the World Health Assembly nutrition targets.

In addition, the GFPR calls for a data revolution. This is vital and should include data that is disaggregated by gender, income, age, race, and ethnicity. Since even short bouts of hunger and undernutrition can lead to irreversible damage in children, we need timely data and improved indicators of dietary quality and diversity, especially among women of reproductive age and young children. Asma Lateef

Day Two in Rwanda

Connie Bwiza, member of Rwandan Parliament (Photo credit: IGIHE LTD)

Faustine Wabwire and Todd Post continue reporting from Rwanda.

On Monday we met with Connie Bwiza, a member of parliament, to hear how women in Rwanda are shaping policy and helping to transform the country. Connie has been in parliament since 1998. She represents Kiyovu, an area of Kigali.

We learned of Connie back in Washington, DC. She has played a prominent role in Rwanda's post-conflict reconcilaition and rehabilitation. She is also involved in several international women's organizations. 

When we contacted her before leaving Washington, DC, she was excited to meet and share what women have accomplished in Rwanda since the genocide in 1994. She also arranged for us to meet with her teenage sons and niece in a separate interview to talk with them about Rwandan youth, the generation born after the genocide, but we’ll say more about that later in the week.

The same day as our interview with Connie an article about Rwanda appeared in the New York Times discussing some of the latest developments in the country’s meteoric rise since the genocide. The article scarcely mentions the role of women and conveys how much of a secret it remains to the public at large.

It turned out to be a mournful day for East African women, especially Faustine, because the parliament in her native Kenya had just passed a bill legalizing polygamy. Connie was outraged and explained how damaging the bill is to all East African countries. Not only is it an affront to women in the region, but it threatens to wreck the close economic ties that countries in the region are building. 

The difference between attitudes towards women in Rwanda and Kenya is not as gaping as this bill might cause you to think. Faustine describes it as a shocking anomaly, and I should add that it remains to be seen whether the president of Kenya will sign the bill into law. Public pressure is already mounting to strike it down.

Such a bill would never come up in Rwanda. A female majority in parliament would not allow it. Moreover, it would not be possible because it does not comply with the rule of law. In Rwanda, the law mandates that every bill introduced in parliament must be evaluated for its effect on men and women, and if a bill is not deemed gender neutral it has no chance of passage.

There is something to be said for the importance of reaching critical mass. Rwanda has held three elections since a new constitution was passed. In the first election cycle, women gained 48 percent of the seats in parliament, and then increased it to 56 percent, and in the most recent increased it still further to 64 percent. Norms don’t change all on their own, change requires a prod from policy, and in Rwanda with a majority of women in parliament there is a veritable guarantee there will be a prod working to up end gender inequality. 

 Countries all over the developing world have passed laws reserving a share of the seats in parliament for women. Thirty percent is the most common figure because the gender equality goal of the Millennium Development Goals includes a 30 percent target. But what is equal about 30 percent, when women make up 50 percent of the population? Todd Post

First Impressions in Rwanda

Rwandan women

Rwanda is the only country in the world with a female majority in parliament (photo credit: Women Hall).

Most of the world knows more about the Rwanda of twenty years ago than about the country today. The genocidal killing that lasted for three unbelievable months in 1994 should not be all this tiny nation is known for. Rwanda remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Given where the country was twenty years ago, the progress it has made is remarkable. Bread for the World Institute’s Todd Post and Faustine Wabwire have come to Rwanda to learn more about this.

Rwanda has the distinction of being the only country in the world with a female majority in parliament. While the president is a man—indeed a very strong man—the women of Rwanda are playing an uncommonly powerful role in the country’s development. Women were involved right from the start in the post-conflict reconciliation, and they continue to shape policy and drive progress against hunger and other hardships associated with poverty. The 2015 Hunger Report will be about women in development, and so Rwanda was an obvious choice to visit. We will report on some of our meetings while we’re here and share our reflections as we learn about the relationship between gender and development.

As we shake off our jet lag, we do what most people from abroad do while they’re in Kigali, the capital, i.e. we visit the genocide memorials. They are ubiquitous. There is one for a group of Belgian soldiers who gave their lives trying (unsuccessfully) to protect the Rwandan prime minister. Outside the building where the killing took place is the memorial. Bullet holes cover outside and inside of the building to show the extent of the carnage. There are no blood stains but the imagination can do the work.

There were no other visitors at this memorial when we arrived so we had time to talk with the man who is paid to welcome people to the site, what must be a lonely if not sorrowful job for any Rwandan. He was sixteen in April 1994, he told us. His parents and all his siblings were slaughtered in their home; he was elsewhere when the killers came. It’s hard to imagine what it must be like for him to be reminded of it all the day long and I ask him about this. It is steady work and better than being unemployed, he explains. He has a wife and two children, the oldest six years old and just starting school. The job pays a small wage and he doesn’t eat more than one meal per day consisting mostly of rice. We thanked him for sharing this with us, put a bill in his hand and wished him the best. This is the beginning of our visit to Rwanda. Todd Post

Starting the Chat on Women's Empowerment

Hunger Report Monday 2

This past Friday — the eve of International Women’s Day — Bread for the World and the Institute hosted a Twitter chat with senior policy analyst Faustine Wabwire on how women’s empowerment can help end hunger. Research continues to show that, in nations and communities all over the world, gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. In fact, 55% of the reduction in hunger from 1970-1995 can be attributed to improvements in the status of women.

Senior Hunger Report editor Todd Post, Faustine, and other members of the Institute are currently at work developing the 2015 Hunger Report, to be released in November 2014, which will propose policy changes to improve women’s economic, political, and social status. International Women’s Day offered a prime opportunity to expand the discussion to the Twitter-sphere, resulting in a fruitful dialogue that  touched on the varied dimensions of women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and gave us a chance to hear new perspectives.

Here’s a brief recap of where the chat went, with a smattering of sample tweets:

We had a lot of help getting the word out.  

We started by asking "Why women's empowerment?"

We examined the role of women in agriculture and the food system.

We looked back to the role of the Millennium Development Goals, and ahead to the threat of climate change. 

We pondered where hunger and poverty rates correspond — and where they don't. 

We acknowledged the influence of culture.

We heard from health experts on the role of good nutrition and access to health care. 

We shared resources with each other. 

We talked jobs and wages as next steps toward gender parity in the United States. 

We had many to thank for a rich online discussion. 

Derek Schwabe

Women By the Numbers

IMG_0088

Todd Post for Bread for the World, 2011

Hilary Rodham Clinton may be remembered for many things she said while Secretary of State, but one of the most oft-quoted things she said during her tenure at State was when she spoke at an event in July 2012: Evidence and Impact: Closing the Gender Data Gap.  Clinton said, "Data not only measures progress, it inspires it."

She repeats this statement quite often, or at least some permutation. Thank heavens. Since it appears she may be running for president of the United States, we need leaders who recognize that data is more than about numbers and charts—it’s a public good,  no less a public good than the food system, clean air and water, or children. Yes, children are a public good - who else but them will produce the future leaders of our nations and whom all nations will eventually depend on to address the catastrophe of climate change. Today's leaders certainly have all the data they need to get started; what they lack is the courage and political will. Here's hoping our kids are more inspired than we adults have been.

You may have heard something about the fanfare around Big Data. A Data Revolution appears to be taking place. Something akin to data available to everyone, anywhere, any time, and about aloost anything – a click away, two at the most. The so-called data revolution is very much a gender equality issue, and here on International Women’s Day let’s try to understand why.

In the business I'm in, i.e. ending hunger, we frequently say that hunger is predominantly a woman’s issue. We think women experience hunger at a higher rate than men. I’d bet that is probably correct, but the fact is we really don’t know for sure because the way we collect data doesn’t allow us to arrive at a definitive conclusion.

“Are women and girls more likely than men and boys to be undernourished?” asks a 2011 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the institution charged with collecting and publishing data about undernutrition, or what we more commonly call hunger. According to FAO, “A positive answer to this statement is not supported by available evidence.”

Here’s the problem: Poverty and hunger are normally measured in terms of income or consumption at the household level, not for individuals, so separate hunger and poverty rates for men and women cannot be calculated. Gender disaggregated data are needed to arrive at clear conclusions.

The Millennium Development Goals, which expire in 2015, are likely to be succeeded by another round of development goals. One of the most anticipated improvements to the MDGs will be more gender disaggregation in how progress on the new goals is measured. UN Women has a lot to say about this, so I would steer you there if you’re interested in knowing more about this.

Another example may help to clarify why this issue matters so much. According to UN Women, “the lack of data [on gender-based violence] saw one of the most serious human rights violations excluded from the [MDG] framework. It's critical that we use the post-2015 framework to push the data and evidence base forward, rather than allowing the data we have available to us frame the priorities we set ourselves.”

Today, everyone wants to pledge their allegiance to evidence-based policymaking. I attended an event earlier in the week here in Washington, DC commemorating the upcoming International Women’s Day. The event was hosted by one of the most prominent development organizations in the world, which also happens to specialize in women in development. The event included release of a new paper and as the president of the organization introduced it and the researcher who would present the paper, she made clear to emphasize that this organization, hers, was driven by evidence-based research - not ideology, not opinions, not anything I guess you could say that smacked of the subjective.

The room was packed with women, and as one might expect, the ratio of women to men was no less than nine to one. In the room were some of the most respected thinkers and leaders in the development sector’s work on gender inequality. I looked around the room and the thought crossed my mind that when these women (and the men also) decided to focus so much of their life’s work on overcoming gender inequalities, few of them I'll bet based that decision on a thorough analysis of the evidence base.

This so called data revolution, like any revolution, is the means to an end—what we know to be the right thing to do, the elimination of gender inequality and the championing of human rights for all. As for that, we don't need to consult the data. Todd Post

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