I am in California where this evening I will be a part of Beyond Hunger: A Place at the Table. This event is an extraordinary opportunity to honor Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson for their awesome dedication to Heifer International, and to raise awareness of the ongoing need to empower women.
Because I feel so strongly about the importance of providing opportunities to women, many of my blogs feature this topic. I wrote that Investment in Women Farmers IS Priority for Heifer; but at Heifer, we dont just say it is important, our actions demonstrate our commitment.
Gender and Family Focus is one of Heifer's 12 Cornerstones and empowerment for women is an integral component of our projects. Gender equity (the notion that women, men, girls and boys are valued equally and have the same opportunities to achieve their potential) is an important, key element of our programmatic work. Heifer has developed a two-part strategic approach: mainstreaming and understanding the cultural aspects that prevent gender equity. Mainstreaming ensures that womens (and mens) concerns, priorities and experiences are an integral part of the entire project cycle: the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the project. Through training, Heifer is able to address the cultural systems, procedures, norms, beliefs, practices and attitudes that perpetuate gender inequality. These approaches allow for bridging the existing gaps between women and men.
I recently returned from a visit to India, Nepal and Cambodia; and for the first time, I met women who were in the beginning stages of Heifer projects. These women were shy, and their husbands dominated the conversations. They were such a contrast to other women whose stories I have previously shared, such as Dolores Delgado from Peru or the Womens Group Coordination Committee (WGCC) in Nepal. But I know that this contrast will not last, and these timid women will become transformed after they complete their Cornerstones and Values Based Holistic Development trainings.
Its unbelievable that even though women make up more than half the total number of small farmers in the world, produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries, they still struggle for access to basic resources and services. Gender equity should be the norm; with your help Heifer will continue to work toward making that a reality.
So tonight, as we celebrate the stories of hope and inspiration and reflect on the work that is yet to be done, we recognize that together, we can change the world. And, even if you will not be able to attend this event, I ask that you join us in this pledge for the future to help empower women to achieve their dreams of life without hunger and poverty.