Nigeria, International Women's Day 2017
March 8th marks International Women's Day, an opportunity to acknowledge the transformative contributions women have made to their communities and societies today and throughout history. It is also, however, an important time to examine the significant inequalities that women and girls face around the world that limit their basic human rights, their social status, their decision-making power at home and in their societies, and that rob them of the freedom to define their futures and pursue their potential.
In humanitarian emergencies, gender inequality becomes even more dramatic and harmful. Every year, conflicts and natural disasters leave millions of people unable to meet even their most basic needs, and an estimated 80 percent of those affected by conflict and natural disaster are women.
Conflicts, violence against women and girls, and hunger are closely linked in humanitarian emergencies to which Action Against Hunger is responding, such as South Sudan, where famine was declared in parts of the country recently; and northeast Nigeria, where populations face an elevated risk of famine in areas affected by the Boko Haram conflict; and Somalia, where drought and insecurity have contributed to a food crisis that has left 50 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance.
Gender inequality is a cause and consequence of hunger
Food crises increase gender inequalities. According to Clara Ituero, Action Against Hunger's gender and development advisor, "In some contexts, women have less access to education and paid employment, and they have little voice in decisions that affect humanitarian assistance or their basic living conditions. Although society entrusts them with the duty of feeding their families on a daily basis, they lack the ability to make basic decisions over control over land and family incomes. This system keeps them vulnerable in terms of their own ability to reliably access food for themselves or, their children. This has implications for their nutritional status."
In times of conflict, during massive population displacements, violence against women and girls increases. "Forced to flee from their homes, without access to crops or markets, women are forced to travel long distances to find food. They are then exposed to specific dangers such as kidnapping, robbery, sexual assault, or abuse. Escaping these situations is difficult because if a woman does not go out to find food, she and her family do not eat, and children become severely malnourished," says Chiara Saccardi, head of one of Action Against Hunger's rapid deployment emergency teams.
Empowering Porridge Moms in northeast Nigeria
Today, as we acknowledge the challenges that women endure and overcome in humanitarian emergencies around the world, we want to share an inspiring story of a courageous group of mothers in northeast Nigeria. Action Against Hunger launched the “Porridge Moms” program in Maiduguri in northeast Nigeria's Borno State to provide vulnerable displaced women with a daily nutritious meal, as well as health education and training to prevent their at-risk children from becoming severely malnourished. The Porridge Moms program also provides these mothers with a critical peer support network, a “sisterhood” where they can help each other cope with the trauma, violence, and loss they have endured.