by ANDREW HEWETT
We’ve all sat at the kitchen bench, plastic spoon in hand, ridiculous smile on face, desperately trying to get our kids to eat. Something! Anything!
We’ve all felt the worry that our child isn’t eating enough and getting enough nutrition at such a crucial stage in their development. Imagine if there was no food in your cupboard or your fridge to feed your child. Absolutely nothing. Imagine the panic you would feel about your child’s health and wellbeing.
For hundreds of millions of women around the world, this is something they struggle with every day.
Women actually produce most of the food in many developing countries yet still make up the majority of the hungry.
In Sri Lanka, food shortages are a way of life. Last year, flash flooding devastated crops and homes, affecting one million people who were just beginning to get their lives back on track after the devastating Boxing Day tsunami. On top of that, rising food prices have made putting food on the table a daily struggle for many families.
Oxfam is helping by providing families with the tools, seeds and resources they need to stop hunger and grow a better life.
In Anuradhapura in the country’s North, Chandrani was able to start a home gardening businesses with the support of Oxfam. With the right seeds, tools and knowledge, Chandrani has created a successful vegetable garden, growing beans, capsicum, beetroot, spinach, radish and more. She’s producing enough food to feed her three children and is earning an income by selling the surplus. Best of all, she and her husband Premachandra can now afford to send their children to school.
Meanwhile in South Africa’s Western Cape, Gertruida Baartman faces a constant challenge to feed her family. As the only breadwinner in her extended family of 12, she faces great pressure to ensure her disabled brother, young grandchildren and other family members do not go hungry.
Fortunately, she is now better able to provide for her family after starting her own cooperative in 2008 with the support of Oxfam’s partner organisation, Women on Farms. Women on Farms is helping local women gain access to land so they can grow their own food and earn income, as well as teaching the women about their rights in a country where black women traditionally have no access to land.
Women on Farms are also working to reduce the percentage of South African farm workers who go to bed hungry or are at risk of going to bed hungry each night.
Incredibly, it is estimated that by providing women with the same access to land and farming resources as men, the number of hungry people could reduce by 100–150 million.
Overcoming this inequality also brings enormous rewards for children and families; increasing a woman’s income by $10 achieves the same improvements in children’s nutrition and health as increasing a man’s income by $110, because women are more likely to channel the income they control into the nutrition, health and education of their children.
Speaking about the difference her involvement with Women on Farms has made at a recent event in Melbourne, Gertruida said:
“I feel like a seed that was watered and nurtured, grew into a tree and can now provide fruit to many others.”
“I know there are many other seeds out there that could also be nurtured.”
So what can you do to help? This month, Oxfam is running a Stop Hunger appeal, to raise money to tackle the global hunger crisis which sees almost a billion people go to bed hungry each night.
Incredibly, in Sri Lanka $150 can buy enough vegetable seeds to feed seven families for a whole year. But all contributions, no matter how small, will assist Oxfam’s work and help women just like Chandrani and Gertruida work their way out of poverty.
For more information, please see www.oxfam.org.au/stophunger or call 1800 088 110.
Andrew has been Executive Director of Oxfam Australia since October 2001.