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7 women who will make you believe we can end hunger

By Anna Kramer

Hear from women who are feeding their families and the world.

Here's something worth celebrating: the number of hungry people in the world has fallen in the last two decades. But too many of us—nearly 800 million—still can’t access the food we need.

While hunger exists everywhere, the vast majority of hungry people live in developing countries. Small-scale farmers in these countries, especially women, have been excluded from access to credit, training, and technology, even though they are the very people who produce the majority of the world’s food. According to UN Women, an estimated 150 million people in 34 countries could escape hunger if women had the same access as men to the assets they need for farming.

The good news is that women—farmers, chefs, activists, business owners, and many more—are leading the movement for change. Below, meet seven women who are creating a better future for their families and for all of us.

Edna Kiogwe, farmer and Female Food Hero participant, Tanzania 

Edna Kiogwe helps her host family in Kisanga with the morning chores which included getting the fire going and cooking cassava for breakfast. Photo: Coco McCabe / Oxfam America

Edna participated in the Tanzanian reality TV show, Female Food Heroes, which elevates the voices of women farmers and highlights the many challenges they face.. 

“I want to make agriculture something people value and not say agriculture is only for villagers. It’s not the last alternative. I want to make it a first alternative.”

Read more about Edna and the other Female Food Heroes >

Emiliana Aligaesha, famer and entrepreneur, Tanzania

Photo: Brett Eloff/Oxfam America

"Most [small farmers] are women, working hard, feeding their families, providing all their needs, fetching water, paying school fees. At the end of the day, they are the poorest in the area because they use much [human] energy and profit almost nothing.

The great problem is that we have no sure markets where we can buy and sell. Whatever we produce, we sell under the [production] costs. This breaks the heart of farmers.

But I believe in farming because it has supported my children’s education. I always have something to eat."

Find out how Emiliana helped her local farmers become successful businesspeople >

Thao Nguyen, musician and activist, United States

Thao Nguyen, left, at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Coco McCabe/Oxfam America

“I grew up in Virginia in a traditionally Vietnamese household, raised by a single mother, and witnessed many of the very specific challenges faced by women as providers: the lengths they must go to and the obstacles they must overcome to keep their families healthy and stable. In many cases and places, the challenge for these women is to keep their families alive. ... They are the primary food growers, providers, and heads and spines of households everywhere.”

Find out how the singer, songwriter, and guitarist is using her voice to make a difference >

Teresa Muñoz, farmer and human rights defender, Guatemala

Photo: James Rodriguez/Oxfam America

“Ever since I was a girl I have lived here in nature, breathing fresh air and drinking water from springs coming from the mountains. Nature has fed me, healed me. When they threaten nature, then I feel that they are going to take my life too.

I know I have to defend what I love, and what I love is life and nature. So I will keep doing everything I can, regardless of the consequences.”

Teresa paid a heavy price for her opposition to a silver mine, but she didn’t give up. Get the story >

Saleha Begum, farmer, Bangladesh

Photo: Rachel Corner/Oxfam

“Before, my husband was the only person earning money for the family. We could only eat one meal for the whole day. … Now I’m [raising cows and] selling milk I can make money and save money and be independent. I can help pay for my son’s education. Now we eat three meals a day, and we eat fish every day, and meat at least once a week. … My boy is much healthier. In the future, I want my son to carry on his studies and then to be well educated and have a good job so our life is better.”

See how Saleha and other women in her village survived a flood, provided for their families, and claimed their equal rights, too >

Metilia Robert, farmer, Haiti

Photo: Shiloh Strong/Oxfam

“I have a plot of land that my sister used to work. When her husband planted the rice, he would transplant a handful of seedlings at a time. After learning about the System of Rice Intensification, I said, ‘I’m going to plant the land myself.’ I planted the seeds. After eight days, I transplanted the seedlings, one by one.

After harvest, when they brought the rice to my porch, my husband raised both hands to his head; he said, ‘Where did you get all of this rice?’ … What Oxfam gave to me, I am keeping it forever. I am evangelizing with it.”

Five years after the devastating earthquake, could Roberts and other farmers be the key to rebuilding Haiti? Find out here >

Josephine Alad-ad, farmer, Philippines

Josephine Alad-Ad and her daughter Jessamae, 15. Photo: Tessa Bunney/Oxfam

“This January we haven’t had any rain and so my onion harvest has failed. I was unable to harvest anything. The weather has become erratic. Last year it rained too much all the time and now this year we are experiencing a drought. 

 It feels good to be doing something to try and improve life here and adapt to the [climatic] changes we are experiencing. I am happy that the women here are standing by their principles, working hard and sending their children to school. I hope to be a good example to my daughter, but I don’t expect her to follow in my footsteps."

See how Josephine is feeding her family in the face of a changing climate >

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