International Women’s Day

This piece was posted by Betty, Programmes Officer, FYF UK Office.

Yesterday I celebrated International Women’s Day in the grand setting of the House of Lords as a guest of Baroness O’Loan, DBE. I heard about the important role that women play in the fight against hunger by growing food to feed their families.

Mable Chango, Malawi

Phoebe had travelled from Tanzania to speak passionately about the 18 hour day worked by many of her fellow farmers who undertake back-breaking work in the fields as well as collecting water and fuel, cooking and cleaning and caring for their families. She considers herself lucky to have learned how to be a more productive farmer with the support of Concern Worldwide.

Baroness O’Loan spoke movingly of the harsh conditions in Africa that she had seen while living and raising a family there. Two other women gave birth on the same day as her. While Baroness O’Loan rested, one of the women tied her baby to her back and went back to work in the fields. The other tragically had to dig a grave to bury her child.

The event was organized by Concern Worldwide, Actionaid and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development. Along with most others at the event I signed in support of Concern Worldwide’s campaign “Unheard Voices: Women Can’t Wait” which is demanding that world leaders act now to support poor women in their fight against hunger.

This campaign is close to our hearts at FYF. We support poor women in India and Malawi to fight hunger for themselves and their families by training them to grow more crops using sustainable agriculture and to earn money to buy food and other essentials. Before I left work for the House of Lords I was reading about one of the farmers that we work with in Malawi. Joyce Vivuyi has a large household to feed – her husband does not have formal employment and 5 of their 7 children live at home along with two orphaned girls and two grannies. Joyce leads a group of farmers who have started an enterprise producing eggs. The eggs make a valuable contribution to her family’s diet and the group hopes to begin to make a profit soon from egg sales. Using manure from the poultry house has saved her money by reducing the amount of fertiliser that she needs to buy for her crops.

Women like Joyce need our support because of the lack of help that governments give to smallholder farmers, particularly women. This campaign will help to bring attention to their plight and provide them with agricultural and other services they need to reduce their poverty and hunger.


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