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Fighting Poverty with Better Nutrition for Women

Hunger and poverty continue to be major obstacles to the well-being of millions of women and children around the world. The Bread for the World Institute says those problems can be reversed by improving the social, economic and political status of rural women.

Executive Director Asma Lateef says reducing global hunger and poverty simply starts with better nutrition.

“Even today, despite progress on hunger and poverty over the last two to three decades, women still suffer disproportionately from hunger and disease around the world. More women suffer from malnutrition. Women are dying at alarming rates during childbirth. And it’s especially alarming in sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia,” she says.

Women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners of the families in rural areas of poor countries.

Fighting Poverty with Better Nutrition for Women
Fighting Poverty with Better Nutrition for Women

“It’s taken a while for people to understand that women’s needs and priorities and their roles are significantly different than men. And so as you design programs and projects you need to be extremely conscious of the different roles of men and women and how they access credit and markets and health services and their roles and responsibilities within families,” says Lateef.

Those programs, she says, should give women much greater access to social services.

“In many societies,” she says, “the lack of access to education, the lack of access to credit, land titles and things like that, that are really preventing women from being able to take advantage of market opportunities, economic opportunities. And we’ve also learned that if women are educated, the benefits from that education extend to their families. That women are much more equipped then to make the right choices in terms of the nutritional and health status of their children.”

She says children born to mothers who can read are 50 percent more likely to survive past their 5th birthdays.

A call for public support

Lateef praises the United States for supporting programs for women and girls included in the global hunger and food security initiative, called Feed the Future, and the Global Health Initiative. However, Congress is debating hundreds of millions of dollars in proposed cuts to various foreign aid programs.

She says, “It’s really important that people get behind these programs in these budget discussions we’re having here in Washington. These programs are at risk. It’s a very small piece of the budget, but it’ll have a huge impact on women and girls around the world and through that on peace and security in the societies in which they live.”

The Bread for the World Institute executive director is also highlighting the 1,000 Days Initiative. It stresses good nutrition for the first one thousand days of a child’s life – from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. Secretary of State Hilleary Clinton helped kick off the campaign last September.