Boston, MA – International humanitarian organization Oxfam America joined a number of groups, churches and corporations around the country to mark the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day with more than 100 events this month to raise awareness about the struggles millions of poor women still face today.
“Hunger and poverty affect women and men alike, but because women make up the majority of those living below the poverty line, they carry the heaviest burdens,” said Vicky Rateau, Economic Justice Campaign Manager with Oxfam America. “While most of us think of hunger as lack of food, it is actually lack of power. We grow enough food to feed everyone, yet hundreds of millions of women continue to go hungry. On this anniversary of International Women’s Day, we organized ourselves to not forget about these women around the world who will go to bed hungry so their family can eat instead.”
Thousands of Americans from Ames, to Austin to Atlanta are participating Oxfam America Hunger Banquets, house parties, film screenings or panel discussions to celebrate and learn about the plight of women around the world. The events also aim to draw attention to ongoing budget debates in Congress that could lead to cuts in life-saving programs, such as disaster preparedness and food security, which benefit vulnerable communities around the world.
“In Italy, women are given flowers on International Women’s Day. In Cameroon, women dance on the streets, and in China women get the day off,” said Rateau. “From Salem to Spokane, we’re starting a dialogue about food injustices and their global dimensions to honor the rights that women have gained over the last 100 years, but also remember the struggles of women who will still go to bed hungry tonight.”
Women grow a majority of the food in many developing countries, but they often grow hungry. Around the world 925 million people do not have enough food to eat, and women and young children are especially vulnerable. Climate change is only set to make things worse. Nangatio Ivette Cissé, a Malian farmer and treasurer of Mouvement Biologique Mali (MoBioM), an umbrella organization for 76 village co-operatives that grow organic and Fairtrade certified cotton and mangoes in Mali, was a special guest at a number of events.
“Women are always the first ones to rise and the last ones to go to bed,” said Cissé through a translator. “It’s hard work to be a woman farmer, and you have to do it with a child on your back.”
In many poor countries, women are the ones who collect food, water and fuel, maintain the home and look after the children. When food is scarce, women often eat less so other family members can have enough. Most of these rural women rely on farming to earn a living. But although women produce most of the world’s food, they often lack access to vital resources, like a steady source of water or a market where they can sell their crops for a fair price. Climate change poses an added threat, with erratic rainfall and droughts that disrupt the growing season and risk further hunger. Meanwhile, women have fewer opportunities to learn new skills, access credit or find well paying jobs. Seventy five percent of the worlds 876 illiterate adults are women.
Oxfam Ambassador and Sex and the City actor, Kristin Davis, participated in a private Oxfam event in Los Angeles and said, "In my travels with Oxfam, I have been amazed by the women farmers I have met in African countries. Women farmers grow most of the food in the poor countries around the world, often without having equal rights to the land. And they are greatly affected by climate change. These women hold the keys to solving global hunger if they are given a voice and equality in their communities."
“Human rights are not contingent on gender, ethnicity or money in the bank,” continued Rateau. “Human rights are fundamental and non-negotiable. In a world where there is still plenty of food, no one should go hungry no matter who she is and where she lives.”
Oxfam national partners for International Women’s Day events include: Buddhist Global Relief, Africare, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, League of Women Voters, Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns, ActionAid, Heart Circle Sangha, Church World Service, Small Planet Institute, National Peace Corps Association, Phap Nguyen Buddhist Congregation, Foundation for Violence-Free Homes Sacred Family, F.I.S.H. Foundation, Inc., Women Thrive, Life for Relief and Development, Foundation for Violence-Free Homes Sacred Family, IMA World Health, Phap Nguyen Buddhist Congregation, Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty, United Methodist Women, Women’s Environment and Development Organization, American Jewish World Service, National Council of Jewish Woman, William Velasquez Institute, and Levi Strauss & Co.
Background in International Women’s Day: In March 1911, more than a million women and men around the world took to the streets in rallies calling for discrimination against women to stop, demanding women’s rights to work, vote, be trained and hold public office. This March, 100 years later, many women and men are coming together to mark this significant anniversary. We at Oxfam have chosen to mark the anniversary by calling attention to the oppression, poverty and hunger that continues to harm hundreds of millions of women around the world.