After last week’s blog describing the increasing presence of the phenomenon of the so-called “Indian Enigma,” you may have finished the article with a sense of hopelessness surrounding the undernutrition of women and girls. However, that is not the case. Although a daunting task, non-profit organizations such as The Hunger Project, Freedom From Hunger and Oxfam International are successfully tackling these exact issues in order to improve nutrition for women and girls throughout India.
The Hunger Project works to improve undernutrition through its bottom-up strategy known as the Panchayati Raj Campaign whereby women become active local governing officials. The Panchayati Raj Campaign mobilizes people at the grassroots level to build self-reliance, empowers women as key change agents and creates effective partnerships with local governments within a five-year cycle. In the past year, elected and empowered women representatives have led a series of successful campaigns including the Malnutrition Awareness Campaign. The aforementioned campaign has successfully made the public aware of problems associated with malnutrition, ways to prevent and treat malnutrition, as well as the government’s role and responsibilities and how to ask for its help.
Similarly, Freedom from Hunger invites young women and girls to participate in “Learning Conversations,” a proven model whereby groups of women share information in order to foster a dialogue to inevitably create change aimed towards female empowerment. Collaborating with local India-based organizations, Freedom from Hunger reaches over 25,000 girls and 500,000 mothers to provide educational training with a focus on empowering, protecting and educating girls. By educating women and girls about the importance of nutrition and food security, organizations such as Freedom from Hunger empower girls with the knowledge necessary to act as change agents.
Finally, according to Dr. Vandana Shiva of Oxfam International in her blog Seeds in Women’s Hands, “the seeds of food justice lie in creating food systems where seed is in women’s hands, and women’s knowledge of biodiversity is the foundation of food and nutritional security.” In order to secure food security and gender justice, Dr. Shiva suggests the following steps:
- Recognize women’s seed breeding skills in the agricultural domain.
- Create farming systems based on women’s nutritional knowledge, climate change, and the reduction of inputs of land, water and capital.
- Creation of community seed banks with women managers who serve as the backbone of food security.
- Change laws concerning intellectual property rights to remove seeds from being included as patentable subject matter, specifically in the World Trade Oranization’s Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- Recognize seed rights as women’s rights. Keep seeds as a public good.
With such high quality organizations working towards food security, not to mention organizations including but not limited to The World Bank, the United Nations, and the World Food Program, it is only a matter of time until poverty and undernutrition rates for Indian women and girls decline for good.
Image courtesy of the International Museum of Women