THP Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day

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On March 8, 2011 we will celebrate the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day!

In 1910 in Copenhagen, a group of women in pursuit of equal employment opportunities came together at an International Conference of Working Women and created the idea of celebrating an international day for women. The inaugural International Women's Day was then honored the following year, in 1911, in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. Drawing on the origins of this day, 2011's theme calls for "equal access to education, training and technology: pathways to decent work for women."

In most developing countries, it is primarily men who are afforded opportunities to seek decent employment. Women are charged with the sole care for the family and household and made dependent on a man's income. As a result, women and girls are routinely kept from receiving education and skills training, and remain illiterate and untrained. The Hunger Project (THP) works in rural regions to empower women with the skills to pursue their own, equal opportunities.

By conducting local income-generating workshops, community members are exposed to new and innovative ways to conduct businesses and maximize their incomes. For example, THP-Mexico has partnered with Mexico's Social Development Ministry (SEDESOL) to work as a Local Development Agency, providing finance and training to community leaders in carrying out income-generating projects. One such group of women is known as Las Esperanzas, The Hope, from an isolated community in Zacatecas. Whereas most women in the community rely entirely on small allowances sent to them by husbands and sons working in the United States, Las Esperanzas now provide for themselves and their families by running an all-women poultry farm that produces nearly $1,000 pesos in daily sales to neighboring villages. Computer skills training, managing and marketing education have complemented their entrepreneurial spirit and provided the knowledge and resources necessary for continued success.

Specialized programs such as Women's Empowerment Programs (WEP) in Africa and an Unleashed Women's Network in Bangladesh train volunteer leaders, or "animators," to, in turn, train other women in leadership skills and civic, legal and reproductive health rights. For example, Mrs. Marième Harouna Ba, a WEP animator in Senegal, has used her training to teach literacy, arithmetic and language skills to women in her community. For the last decade, Marième has expanded her impact beyond her community through radio as the head of a women's empowerment radio program.

By constitutional amendment, one-third of all seats in local government in India are reserved for women. THP works to train elected women leaders to fill those seats as effective change agents in their villages. Sarmi Bai, an elected women representative from the district of Rajasthan, had the unique opportunity to personally present her successes to US President Obama at a Mumbai conference in 2010. Among her achievements, Sarmi has worked to ensure proper implementation of the 2005 Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, legislation that guarantees one hundred days of employment each year to adult members of any rural household willing to do publically beneficial work.

Remember, chronic, persistent hunger is not due merely to lack of food. It occurs when people lack opportunity to earn enough income, to be educated and gain skills, to meet basic health needs and to have a voice in the decisions that affect their community. Studies show that when women have access to such opportunity, all of society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase.

Empowering women is at the very heart of The Hunger Project's work. Through all of our programs, we aim to support women, build their capacity and ensure their voices are heard and influence felt, in their own families, communities and more widely.

What You Can Do this International Women's Day: