The following is a World Hunger Day op-ed by Hunger Project Global President and CEO Suzanne Mayo Frindt. Read the full World Hunger Day statement here.
Today, 821 million people live in chronic hunger worldwide. Hunger is not just about food. Hunger and poverty are inextricably linked to a nexus of issues including: decent work opportunities, health, education, social justice, the rights of women and girls, and the environment.
The majority of people living with hunger are small-scale food farmers living in fairly remote rural areas, and most of them are women. They not only lack access to sufficient, nutritious food but also to a full range of basic human services. They live in societies shaped by a prevailing patriarchy, leaving people with a mindset of resignation and powerlessness.
Moreover, the prevailing mindset of many governments, organizations and donor agencies is that people living in hunger and poverty are “beneficiaries,” reinforcing the mindset of many people living in poverty.
We must transform these mindsets.
Individuals living in hunger and poverty are hard-working and creative human beings and they are our most valuable resource in overcoming poverty and hunger. I strongly believe that the solution to chronic hunger is in every person.
That’s why The Hunger Project, the organization I lead after investing in it for more than 25 years, launched World Hunger Day in 2011. Each year we use this day to increase awareness of the people living in poverty globally and advocate alongside these partners for innovative, holistic approaches to tackle all of these issues and empower people living in hunger to become the agents of their own development and lift their communities above the poverty line for good.
For 40 years, The Hunger Project has seen success with sustainable, gender-focused strategies, led by communities. After years of advocating for community-led development on our own, we catalyzed the formation of the Movement for Community-led Development, which aims to raise the profile of this approach in the global development community. I encourage like-minded organizations to join us in the Movement, especially if you’ve seen this approach work to lift communities out of poverty, as I have.
I can point to dozens of examples of people who have connected with The Hunger Project, shifted their mindsets and have advanced on their journey to self-reliance.
Take Tsege Searko, one of our community partners in Ethiopia, for example. After her husband passed away, Tsege struggled to find work and provide her children with a basic meal each day. Then, Tsege connected with The Hunger Project at the Mesqan Epicenter, where she attended activities organized by the Women’s Empowerment Program, including trainings on gender equality. Through these activities, Tsege’s mindset began to shift. She gained the confidence and awareness that she could be as successful as any man. In addition, she attended trainings on how to use and manage her farming resources in modern and efficient ways and accessed a small loan. Tsege implemented the agricultural methods she learned and invested the loan back into her farm.
With the support and training she received, Tsege was transformed and empowered emotionally, mentally and physically. It has now been several years since Tsege attended her first training, and she is still providing a sustainable and happy life for herself and her children.
With a small boost from The Hunger Project, Tsege found the power to change her circumstances within herself. Others can too.
Today, on World Hunger Day, I invite you to stand in solidarity with people like Tsege, people living in hunger and poverty who are taking self-reliant actions to improve their lives and conditions in their communities.
Join the global conversation by telling your friends, family and colleagues about World Hunger Day. Download the Social Media Toolkit and celebrate sustainability by using the hashtag #SustainabilityIs and tell the world what sustainability means to you.
We can end chronic hunger. We need to unlock the ideas, hopes and dreams of the people living with hunger every day.