November 27th, 2013
06:27 PM ET

This Thanksgiving, remember women can end hunger

By Elise Young, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Elise Young is Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs at Women Thrive Worldwide, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group dedicated to women’s equality. The views expressed are her own.

It’s a long way from Benin to the family Thanksgiving table where I grew up outside of Philadelphia. But the people of this West African nation are never far from my mind, especially as I gather with my friends and family for Thanksgiving.

The daughter of a minister, I’m thankful for the many blessings in my life and especially for the food that I have to eat on a daily basis.

Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been. Around the globe, nearly 840 million people are now considered “food insecure.” Almost 60 percent are women and girls – a despite the fact that women farmers actually produce most of the food in developing countries. Hunger is especially pronounced in developing countries like Benin, where one in three households is considered food insecure.

As a volunteer for the Peace Corps in Benin from 2000-2002, I saw firsthand the devastating effect that hunger and poverty can have on families.

Most of the high school students I worked with were young men. Families in the region couldn’t afford to send their girls to secondary school. My students were always hungry by the end of the day, because lunch was considered a luxury. And I lost two students over the course of my service, because access to affordable health care – especially for girls – was not a reality.

But just as women and girls in developing countries are disproportionately impacted by poverty and hunger, I believe they can also play a more significant role in reducing poverty and hunger if they are afforded greater access to opportunity and equality.

And there are plenty of women all over the world who, right now, are proving my point.

Take Rose Edith, for example. As an activist and a person of faith, I’m especially inspired by the example of this former Catholic nun in Haiti. Working with the National Congress of Papaye Peasant Movement, Rose Edith is trying to ensure that Haitian women farmers have enough high quality land on which to grow nutritious food and access to stable markets in which they can sell their crops at fair prices.

Rose Edith – and many other women like her – have opened my eyes to how the United States can be effective in reaching the world’s hungry and promoting long-term solutions for farmers: It’s by listening to and partnering with women change-makers.

I’m convinced that my obligation to those who are hungry in this world extends beyond my dinner table. And I know that my actions must go beyond simply acknowledging the problem.

The good news is that, this Thanksgiving, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference. Earlier this year, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) reintroduced the Global Food Security Act, legislation that would help empower local women farmers from Haiti to Benin to communities all over the world.

If passed, the bill would lay the foundation for a comprehensive, multi-agency strategy that invests in local communities and helps them access needed resources, training, and strengthened markets.

The bill also updates the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to include a renewed focus on women, nutrition, and smallholder farmers. The World Bank estimates that as many as 150 million fewer people would go hungry if women had equal access to agricultural resources.

The Global Food Security Act would be good news for women like Rose Edith and others involved in agriculture in developing countries. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, only 22 members have co-sponsored the Global Food Security Act. But whether we are motivated by faith, conscience, or cost-effectiveness, we cannot wait for the next hunger crisis to arrive and then react. Now is the time for each of us to encourage our members of Congress to co-sponsor and vote for the act.

Using our voice to speak up for change – like fasting and prayer – is an act that reflects what we truly believe in.

This Thanksgiving, I’ll be talking with my family and friends to get them involved in encouraging their members of Congress to show faith in empowering women and ending global hunger by supporting the Global Food Security Act. I hope you’ll do the same.

Topics: Women

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. The GOP Solution

    The GOP Solution: Turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. Then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. And don't forget the GOP all time favorite............TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!!!!!

    November 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  2. chrissy

    I do agree with the last sentence of your post @ the GOP solution EXCEPT it should be: GOTP ! Mustnt let the tea party off the hook!

    November 27, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Reply
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    Ms, Young requests support for an act that I cannot support at a time when there is widespread poverty within the borders of the USA. Taxes required from USA citizens are best spent on the needs of other citizens of our country.
    Charitable contributions to the poor in countries from Haiti to Benin are appropriate. I think that individuals should be able to choose the recipients of their gifts.
    I see no reason to choose women over men as recipients of donations.
    Ms. Young's article was well enough written to convince many Americans to send money to women in her chosen countries. I prefer to give in my own country.

    November 28, 2013 at 6:25 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Ms. Young should consider that this inequality of food distribution has to do with population growth in areas that lack the economic and natural resources to feed their people. We want to help the poor and hungry, but very often it's difficult to help, if people don't help themselves. In some areas birth control is taboo. What can we do?

      November 28, 2013 at 7:17 am | Reply
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    "What can we do" is a good question.
    Often, there is ugliness where life exists.
    Triage is beneficial and highly moral. All medical doctors would prefer to save every life in a disaster, but at times they must treat the person with the best chance of survival.

    November 28, 2013 at 7:52 am | Reply
  5. rightospeak

    The question to ask is why are they poor and hungry ? Where did all the money go in a small population of Haiti with UN's help which spread cholera according to reports ? Why is it a mess for so long ? Is it because we removed their democratically elected presidents ?
    Haiti killed all the Whites when the Black Slaves got themselves pistols ( gun control eager beavers please note that tyranny can be overcome by armed populace ). Maybe they should have not killed them and things would be different ? Who knows.

    November 28, 2013 at 9:27 am | Reply
  6. THANKSGIVING

    For Thanksgiving we THANK everybody – love is in the air.

    November 28, 2013 at 9:41 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      Thanksgiving was just the beginning of the article, which progressed to the redistribution of USA tax money into Haiti and Africa.

      November 28, 2013 at 10:27 am | Reply
      • rightospeak

        Right on ,Joey. Somehow people think that handouts for this and that will resolve the problem of poverty especially if they are to organize and be paid , of course well. How much does the UNICEF CEO make ?

        November 28, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  7. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    If one asks, "why are they poor and hungry," one should also ask, "why is a billionaire rich?"
    Billionaires do give away much of their money, but I think that the poor and hungry may have a lot to learn from billionaires. I always try to determine how a billionaire got that way.

    November 28, 2013 at 10:40 am | Reply
    • rightospeak

      If we ask questions, Joey, maybe we will find the answers .

      November 28, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    After the earthqukr in Haiti, a number of other musicians and I gave a concert (without fees

    November 28, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      After the earthquake in Haiti, a number of other musicians and I gave a concert to help the victims. It raised an amount of money that stunned me.
      When I told a friend of Haitian descent the figure, she said, "I doubt that much of that will reach the victims." Really, I doubt that much of the money did get there.

      November 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  9. chrissy

    Your friend very likely was correct @ Joey, which is why to this day, many people in Haiti still live in tents. My Dr. is from Haiti and he told me, unless you are donating your time and labor, the people there see very little of whats been donated. The government takes whatever has been donated, and if it is things other than money, they sell them to their people. They keep the money.

    November 28, 2013 at 2:52 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      My friend with family in Haiti brought some of them to NYC to live with her until they could establish themselves here.

      November 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply
  10. chrissy

    Well thats probably the best thing she coulda done for them @ Joey! They will be much better off, providing our gov gets their act together on immigration reform that is.

    November 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm | Reply
  11. ✠RZ✠

    Well, I guess depending on what you hunger for, you might have a point. (' my bad).

    November 29, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply
  12. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    This futile article, another plea for charity based on continental location and gender discrimination, is often the only segment that appears when I attempt to contact this forum.
    More inclusive communication from GPS would be welcome.

    December 14, 2013 at 5:12 am | Reply

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