Developing strategies to end hunger
 

197 posts categorized "Millennium Development Goals"

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

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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

Join us for a Twitter Chat on Women's Empowerment to End Hunger

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Gender bias is a principal cause of hunger. Women produce well over half of the global food supply and are more likely to spend additional income on food. We won’t be able to end extreme poverty by 2030 without tackling gender inequality around the world. This is why women’s empowerment will be the focus of Bread for the World Institute’s (@breadinstitute) upcoming 2015 Hunger Report, currently being developed.

Join Bread for the World Institute Senior Policy Analyst Faustine Wabwire (@fwabwire) for a Twitter chat on the linkages between hunger, poverty, and women’s empowerment this Friday, March 7—the eve of International Women's Day. We want to hear your recommendations and stories to help answer the question:

What can we absolutely not leave out of the 2015 Hunger Report on women's economic empowerment to end hunger?

Be sure to include the hashtag #IWD2014 in your tweets. Here are the details:

What: Twitter Chat on Women’s Empowerment to end Hunger and Poverty

When: Friday, March 7, 2014

Time: 12 p.m. - 1 p.m. EST

Chat Hashtag: #IWD2014

Primary Twitter Accounts: 

@Fwabwire 

@breadinstitute

@bread4theworld

@asmalateef (Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute)

Faustine and the Institute will start the conversation with a few questions—but we hope to do a lot of listening. We look forward to hearing from you!

Pakistan Joins the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement

This blog was submitted by Pirbhu Satyani, who is an intern in Bread for the World Institute.   He has a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship through American University and comes from Tharparkar/Sindh, Pakistan.    

  Pirbhu pic

Pakistan, a middle-income country, has taken the significant step of becoming the 46th member country of the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) Movement. An important role of SUN member countries is to collaborate with each other in making the issue of nutrition a top priority. SUN helps member countries design nutrition-focused policies and use resources efficiently to achieve improved nutrition, especially among women and children.  

In my country, malnutrition is a serious issue with many causes, including ineffective government policies, a poor health infrastructure system, food insecurity, and widespread poverty. In terms of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4), Pakistan is still far behind in reducing its under-5 child mortality rate. Every year, 800,000 children die in Pakistan -- 35 percent due to malnutrition. The risk of death is nine times higher for a child suffering from malnutrition than for a child with a balanced diet. PS blog 1 Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey in 2011 indicated that 58.1 percent of households were food insecure. The government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working on small projects, but there is no comprehensive and focused long-term plan or strategy to address the situation, to scale up successful programs with a goal of reducing the child mortality rate. The provincial governments (there are four) have been trying to make changes in policies and practices to improve the health and nutrition system since the 2010 introduction of the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution, which empowered provinces to take action.  

Malnutrition arises when people have little access to food and limited health services. In Pakistan, the majority of the population (around 63 percent) lives in rural areas, where health services are very limited. The main livelihood of most people is agriculture – even though it would seem that being a farmer and being malnourished contradict each other. In Pakistan it is lack of access to a diversified diet that causes malnutrition. PS blog2 An unprecedented natural disaster (flood) in 2010-2011 made poor communities even more vulnerable. An estimated 20 million people were displaced, millions of acres of land were damaged, and there was widespread damage to crops, mostly wheat and rice. Farmers were unable to feed their families and malnutrition increased rapidly.   

Malnutrition in Pakistan can only be addressed through collaborative efforts -- by engaging the international donor community and by initiating long–term, sustainable programs such as food security, women’s empowerment, agricultural safety nets, early childhood development programs, and quality health service at the grassroots level (meaning reaching to rural communities). Pakistan hopes that best practices and effective government policies around the world can be shared with and imitated in Pakistan as it seeks ways to scale up successful nutrition actions via the platform the SUN movement has provided.

The commitment of Pakistan’s government to join the SUN movement may open more opportunities for technical support and may mobilize resources by engaging international donors to invest more in improving policies and strategies in the health and agriculture sectors, and in building the capacity of human resources and systems. If that is achieved, effective implementation of services can be ensured at all levels to improve health and nutrition for all in my country.

Scott Bleggi

Gender Equality: A Stand-alone Goal in the Post-2015 Agenda?

TohminaPhoto Credit: Laura Elizabeth Pohl for Bread for the World

 The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) are an unprecedented global effort to achieve human development goals that are identified collectively, achievable, and measurable. Globally, substantial progress has been made toward many MDG targets- including cutting in half the proportion of people living in poverty. Every region of the world has made progress.

MDG target 3A aims to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education level by 2005, and at all levels by 2015. While MDG3 has helped boost political will, and encourage more development groups to invest in resources to promote women's equality, broad progress toward gender equality has wavered, with persistent gender-based inequalities in health, education and politics around the world.

With just two years left to the MDG deadline of December 2015, now is the time for an intensive effort to articulate a goal on gender in the ongoing process to develop a post-2015 global development framework.

Last week, February 3-7, the eighth session of the UN general assembly Open Working Group on sustainable development goals  (SDGs) was held in New York to discuss gender equality and women's empowerment.  These discussions will be included in the UN general assembly report later in 2014, with a proposal for the new 'sustainable development goal' framework. 

A summary of the meeting highlights these points:

  • Gender equality was affirmed as an end in itself and as an essential means for sustainable development and poverty eradication. There can be no sustainable development without gender equality and the full participation of women and girls. Gender inequality is the most pervasive form of inequality in the world. 
  • There was widespread support for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, supplemented by cross-cutting targets under other goals. 
  • Many expressed broad support for a number of priority actions, including: preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls; empowering women legally and economically; and strengthening women’s voice, participation in decision-making and leadership in all areas of life. 
  • The recognition, reduction, and redistribution of unpaid care and domestic work, disproportionately borne by women and girls, was also recognized as an area for action. 

The question is-- what will guarantee that structural constraints to gender equality—whether social, economical or political —are overcome?

"The problem is not a lack of practical ways to address gender inequality but rather a lack of change on a large and deep enough scale to bring about a transformation in the way societies conceive of and organise men’s and women’s roles, responsibilities, and control over resources."  UN Millennium Task Force on Education and Gender Equality

Faustine_Typepad

The State Of The World's Children

The United Nations Children’s Fund, known as UNICEF, released an important report that reminds us of progress being made and challenges still before us as we work to see every child grow to his or her full potential.

The State of the World’s Children 2014 in Numbers is appropriately subtitled “Every Child Counts,” and is an impressive accumulation of data, information and published tables updating this report that was first published 30 years ago. 

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There are 2.2 billion children in the world, and while much has changed in those three decades, the need for credible data about their situation is more important than ever. It is being used by governments, donors, program implementers and policy makers across the globe as the basis for making decisions about investments and taking actions that are directed to children, especially those who are most vulnerable.

By itself, data changes nothing. But when it is accurate, transparent and widely available it can help decision makers identify needs, support advocacy efforts and measure progress toward stated goals.

What this data enables is a visit to the lives of children in any country you choose, behind the numbers. In an easy-to-view manner, the report provides info graphics that reveal the circumstances under which a child is born, their lives growing up, and the quality of their lives as they enter adulthood.

For example:

  • About 90 million children have beaten the odds against them according to 1990 predictions, and have in fact reached their fifth birthday
  • Improvements in nutrition have led to a 37% drop in stunting since 1990
  • Primary school enrollment has increased from 53% in 1990 to 81% in 2011.

But many challenges remain. Eleven percent of girls are married before their 15th birthday. Fifteen percent of children are engaged in labor practices that compromise their rights to protection from economic exploitation and their right to learn and play. And, some 6.6 million children under age 5 died in 2012, mostly from preventable causes.

Whether you are a policy analyst, a data geek who loves infographics, interested in international development, or just someone who wishes to see all children grow to their full potential, I suggest a look through this very interesting report by UNICEF.

Scott Bleggi

SOTU 2014: Obama, Africa, and the Pope

Photo for SOTU 2014

President Barack Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

What President Obama says about U.S. global priorities in tomorrow's State of the Union address can set the tone for several upcoming opportunities to forge historic partnerships to make progress on global hunger and poverty.

In March, the president will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The topic of their discussion will be global inequality.  The World Economic Forum identified the rising gap between rich and poor as the greatest threat to global stability for the next decade.

In April, more than 500 young African leaders will be coming to Washington, DC, as part of the president's new Young African Leaders Initiative. The program will provide both leadership training and mentoring in the United States, and opportunities for participants to put new skills to use to build economic opportunity in their communities once they return home.

And last week, the White House announced that the president will host the first-ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on August 5-6. The summit will bring African presidents from across the continent to Washington to strengthen ties and build on the progress made since Obama's visit to three African countries in June 2013. During that trip, the U.S. president focused on commitments to global food security; expanding economic growth, strengthening democratic institutions, and investing in the next generation of African leaders.

This year's SOTU themes can pave the way to strengthen partnerships with these new audiences in the global community -- to the benefit of everyone, but particularly the world's 842 million hungry people.

By Michele Learner and Faustine Wabwire, Bread for the World Institute  

 

Middle-Income Countries and the New Global Development Goals

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At a climate change rally in Mexico - one of the important middle-income countries bringing new outlooks, priorities, and needs to the process of setting post-2915 global development goals. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

At Bread for the World Institute, a major focus of our work on global hunger and poverty is development assistance - making the case for it, developing recommendations on how it can be more effective, supporting country-led initiatives such as the SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) movement. This makes sense, of course, because development assistance is one of the main tools available to the United States to help fight global hunger.

But many millions of hungry and poor people live in one of the world's 86 middle-income countries. Here, development assistance is a far less important factor. It makes up just 0.3 percent of this group's gross domestic product, compared to almost 10 percent for low-income countries.

Middle-income countries vary from each other in almost every way - political, social, cultural, geographical, and so on. Even the income range that defines membership in the group is a wide one: the richest countries have per-capita incomes about 10 times as much as the poorest countries. But all of them have more resources than low-income countries, and all still face significant development challenges. Among these is poverty. About one-third of people who live on less than $2 a day live in middle-income countries.

The blog Poverty Matters, published in the leading U.K. paper The Guardian, is a recommended source of information and ideas for Institute Notes readers. Recently, a post in Poverty Matters pointed out the importance of middle-income countries to the process of framing global development goals to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, saying that middle-income countries, "a group that includes not just the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, but also players like Indonesia, Turkey, and a range of highly influential Latin American countries, including Mexico and Colombia," could have "the casting vote" on how the new global development goals are framed - and, in turn, on whether the world heads toward ending hunger and poverty by 2030.

In 2014, we will have more to say about middle-income countries as the process of setting global development goals and building political commitment to them picks up speed. Happy New Year!

 Michele Learner

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