1 - Difficult question: Among the UN global goals, which one is the most "important" according to you and why?
Given its mandate, the World Food Programme (WFP) is putting Goals 2 (Zero Hunger) and 17 (Partnerships) on its operational frontlines, with Goal 5 (Advance gender equality and empower all women and girls) as a major catalyst. Without gender equality there is no peace, there is no development, there is no justice – and no Agenda 2030.
Equal access to education and health care; decent work; and a voice in decision-making for women and girls hold the key to the food security and nutrition for households, communities and societies. Simply put, Goal 5 cuts across all other Goals, and is sine qua non for a world free of hunger.
2 - After your week at the #CSW61, in your opinion, what solutions were highlighted in terms of efforts to stop discriminatory gender norms, such as those in relations to access to school for girls and land rights for women?
I am from Kenya, a country where, sadly, some parents still insist on female genital mutilation (FGM) to find suitors for their daughters. So one message that spoke to me powerfully at CSW was that expressed by a young man, a Masai, on how to stop FGM and encourage girls to go to school. His point was that fellow young Masai men should refuse to marry girls if they had undergone FGM or not gone to school.
It was a heartfelt message that had the elegance of simplicity, and it moved me greatly. And it proved one point that we at WFP keep making, which is that gender is not just about women. And that men should have as much of a voice, as much of a stake, in gender equality as do women and girls themselves.
3 – Within WFP, what do you do in order to combat gender inequalities?
Internally, gender is being mainstreamed on the premise that “gender is everybody’s business”. Externally, in 2015, the year for which we have most recent data, more than four out of five of people served by WFP were women and children. All of our programmes and interventions take into account the specific needs of women, men, girls and boys.
Some of these programmes actively seek to transform gender relations and challenge harmful cultural norms. Each of our Five Steps to Zero Hunger has a specific gender focus, so that we:
· Equip women smallholder farmers with the right tools and inputs, boost their access to markets, and build up their skills to navigate a changing climate;
· Invest in women’s cooperatives, buy the crops they farm, and work to dismantle barriers to commerce;
· Train women to safeguard productive assets and farm harder but smarter – whether it’s fish ponds in Colombia or rice paddies in Liberia;
· Mine the often forgotten or neglected expertise of indigenous women for ways to revive and embed agricultural diversity;
· and Offer special nutritional support for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to prevent malnutrition and give all children an equal start in life.
4 - Which countries are the most exemplary in women's empowerment? Why?
Many countries are now working hard to promote gender equality and women´s empowerment. But I would have to particularly commend Sweden and Canada due to the strong feminist focus of their foreign policies. The leaders of these countries almost instinctively use a gender lens, and incorporate gender concerns into their humanitarian and development strategies as a matter of course.
Domestically too, Nordic countries are frontrunners, with workplace equality, political empowerment of women, strong social safety nets and favourable parental leave policies.
At WFP, these countries among others are valuable partners and allies. We engage with their delegations here in Rome, value their perpectives, and learn from them every day.
5 - What are the main WFP strategy to fight against climate change?
WFP recently adopted its new Climate Change Policy that outlines the strategic vision and action for WFP in terms of climate change for the next five years. In addition to the climate change policy, WFP also updated its Environmental Policy.
WFP focuses on the impact of climate hazards and climate change on hunger, food security and nutrition. Furthermore, we work to enhance the resilience of communities and governments who are vulnerable to food insecurity, helping them improve their capacity to manage the increasing frequency and intensity of climatic events. WFP furthermore develops and delivers climate risk management and resilience through innovations for food insecure populations.
6 - Can you explain why women are the first victims of climate change?
We cannot generalise that women are always the first victims of climate change. However, women’s status and lack of economic opportunities often limits them. This is why several of our projects aim to create communal assets such as shallow wells, which reduce communal tension over scarce water resources and bolster solidarity among women from different social groups.
But perhaps our flagship policy in this field is the SAFE initiative, which provides fuel-efficient stoves to food-insecure households. By reducing firewood dependency, SAFE both protects the environment and cuts risks the risk faced by women and girls in collecting firewood. In Darfur alone, SAFE has equipped more than 600,000 households and 180 schools with stoves, along with training on how to build more stoves and briquettes.
7 - How your heart was touched about all of this? How did you become a committed woman?
My heart sings every day and bleeds every day – for what we have achieved, and for the amount of suffering and hunger that we have yet to relieve. I hope that by the time the next decade is out, as Agenda 2030 is realized, my heart will be all singing and no bleeding. And hand on heart, if I were to pick one thing that made me, I would say education. I came from not much, and it gave me everything.