On Monday, March 10, The Hunger Project, in partnership with BRAC and Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), hosted a side event during the UN’s 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York City.
Titled “Gender Is Fundamental to All the MDGs: Lessons from the Field,” the side event featured a discussion with three NGO leaders whose work centers on comprehensive, gender-based programs that improve the health, education, nutrition, income and basic human rights of women and girls across Africa, while sharing the policy lessons provided by these innovative approaches.
Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng, Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange Executive Director, advocated for women’s sexual and reproductive rights in conflict settings. Ms. Ochieng spoke about her organization’s “Healing Camps” and “Peace Expos” that work to empower women affected by conflict and daily sexual violence. “In Africa we want women to be given the power to decide,” was one of her many memorable quotes at the event.
Next, Scott MacMillan, BRAC-US Communications Manager, spoke of BRAC’s foundational work empowering rural women and he addressed the “protection of the science of delivery for simple, low-cost scalable solutions to poverty.” The audience enjoyed Scott’s anecdote about BRAC’s “Girls Clubs” in Uganda. The Girls Clubs provide a safe space for girls and young women in villages of Uganda to learn about women’s empowerment and build their self confidence. When Mr. MacMillan visited one of the Clubs and jokingly asked the girls where the Boys Club was, the girls in the program responded “the world.”
When speaking about the importance and challenges of women-centered programs, Scott exclaimed, “Men don’t manage poverty so how could they manage development?”
Last to present was The Hunger Project’s own Africa Program Officer, Tory Watts. Tory explained The Hunger Project’s holistic approach to ending poverty and how the empowerment of women is at the heart of all of our work. She illustrated why gender equality and women are at the core of each and every MDG, sharing global statistics about how much work remains to be done in terms of gender equality. Tory reminded the audience that as the primary caregivers in households, food farmers, child bearers and the ones who make decisions about family health and nutrition, women have much to gain from gender-sensitive development interventions to address the MDGs. (Download Tory’s PowerPoint presentation.)
The side event closed with an open discussion between the audience and the panelists. Ruth Ojiambo Ochieng inspired the attendees when she exclaimed, “Let the MDGs [post] 2015 know that the beginning of development is a woman.”