Hunger Project President and CEO Participates in Google Hangout from Benin; Answers Your Questions

March 23, 2015

In honor of International Women’s Day which took place on March 8, our President and CEO, Åsa Skogström Feldt, joined us live via video chat from her recent trip to Benin. Åsa discussed the importance of empowering women as key change agents and gave us some updates from her trip to Sweden, Ghana and Benin.

The conversation was led by Executive Vice President John Coonrod, who provided the latest from the 59th Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and discussed the importance of keeping women at the center of the emerging Sustainable Development Goals.

We asked our followers to submit questions to ask Åsa. We didn’t have time to get to them all, so we have listed your questions with answers, below, and check out the full video here.

Question 1:

The lack of women’s organizations is a major constraint to scaling up social change DRCongo. We need help from experience organization’s like The Hunger Project to help empower Congolese women. Does The Hunger Project support women’s empowerment in the DRCongo?

Submitted via YouTube comments

Answer:

Our current strategy is to leverage the resources we have to advocate for the adoption of women-centered, community-led development strategies in countries throughout the world. Though we don’t work in the DR Congo, and don’t have the funds to expand the countries where we work presently, we are working within Africa with groups like Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union to support our approaches being adopted in policies at the regional level.

Question 2:

Please talk about the women’s empowerment in India and what The Hunger Project does to promote gender equality.

Submitted via Email

Answer:

In India, we work with women who have been elected to their village councils thanks to the 1/3 mandatory reservation for women in local councils. Many of these women are members of unscheduled or tribal castes, who have been extremely marginalized.

We engage in leadership development for women in the community to lead, own and shape development processes that give priority to basic services like water, sanitation, education, health care and an efficient food system.
We also do similar work with indigenous women leaders in Mexico and Peru.

Question 3:

How does The Hunger Project approach leadership training with men, especially those who may be entrenched in a patriarchal mind-set? We talk a lot about empowering women, which reinforces, I could imagine, the underlying perception that has them operate patriarchally in the first place.

Submitted via email

Answer:

The Hunger Project supports both women and men in developing their own leadership – even when it comes to gender. Both women and men contribute to the persistence of patriarchal norms, even if only men “benefit” from them.

Women coming into their own leadership is a special challenge because they’ve been systematically denied the opportunities more readily afforded to men. And it is a special opportunity, because every social revolution in history is led by the oppressed – those who most acutely feel the denial of their human dignity.

Men have a special responsibility in halting gender-based violence. It’s actually a “men’s issue” not a women’s issue. Getting it handled, however, is a top priority for women, and they are leading on making it happen.

The Hunger Project has helped develop thousands and thousands of male gender equality champions, and will continue to do so.

Question 4:

I would like to learn about how the successful work in Benin can be scaled up in Benin itself and elsewhere, and is it a question of funding or difficulty in training the trainers or both etc.?

Submitted via email

Answer:

The Hunger Project has been working in Benin since 1997. We currently have 17 epicenters that serve an area of 186 villages and a population of 278,185. Through its integrated approach to rural development, the Epicenter Strategy, The Hunger Project is working with community partners to successfully access the basic services needed to lead lives of self-reliance. In Benin, we work in areas of women’s empowerment, food security, literacy and education, health and nutrition and water and sanitation.

The Hunger Project is focusing on providing training and resources to the population it currently serves in Benin. Our scale up and expansion in the country is contingent on multiple complex factors—including additional funding. In 2014, The Hunger Project expanded and inaugurated the Gohomey Epicenter and continues to make progress toward self-reliance with the establishment of the Wawata Epicenter’s rural bank, which serves a clientele made up of 52% women and promoting maternal and child health through a moringa campaign (leaves from Moringa trees are powerhouses of nutritional value—they contain four times the calcium in milk and seven times the vitamin C in oranges).

Replicating development projects is known to be an ambitious and challenging endeavor, notwithstanding the success of the initial project. As The Hunger Project considered joining the movement to scale up, it explored programs designed around known success factors, and most significantly, the key role of partners. Partnerships – whether financial, technical or cooperative – are widely viewed to be fundamental to project financing, technical backstopping and sustainability.

Question 5:

Would you be able to elaborate on the corporate sustainability partnerships you mentioned?

Submitted via YouTube

Answer:

The key focus to work on social sustainability is to partner with different types of stakeholders that seek to create social sustainability, by empowering local leadership and engaging in inclusive processes with entire communities and to have a plan for self-reliant action.

A fundamental first step in every region where we work is that we mobilize communities for self-reliant actions. Mobilization is a process that shifts the underlying mindset — awakening people to the possibility of self-reliance and the possibility of being sustainably hunger-free. The process builds confidence and creates a community-held vision of a new future beyond hunger, and generates commitment and action at the individual and community levels to achieve that vision within their community. All of this happens through an intensive workshop called the Vision, Commitment and Action (VCA) Workshop.

We seek to encourage corporate social responsibility and work with corporations that empower local leadership and engage in an inclusive process with entire communities. In this way, stakeholders can together develop plans that involve local community members as leaders of change who can take self-reliant actions and transform their communities. View The Hunger Project President and CEO, Åsa Skogström Feldt’s recent talk on corporate sustainability.