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Gender equality is a prerequisite for a world of zero hunger – for all women, men, girls and boys to be able to exercise their human rights, including the right to adequate food.

This is why the pursuit of gender equality and women’s empowerment (Sustainable Development Goal 5) is central to fulfilling the World Food Programme (WFP)’s mandate. Humanitarian crises almost always aggravate food insecurity and malnutrition. With different impacts on women, men, girls and boys, they also exacerbate gender inequalities and threaten to reverse development gains.

Eliminating inequalities between women and men farmers would increase agricultural production by 2.5 to 4 percent in developing countries, which translates to a 12 to 17 percent reduction in global hunger, or 100 to 150 million fewer hungry people. Such figures help explain the imperative of promoting gender equality, which involves providing food assistance in ways that assign equal value to women and men while respecting their particular needs.

To achieve food and nutrition security for all people without distinction, food assistance policies and programmes must create conditions that advance, rather than undermine, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Women's empowerment is a key means of achieving gender equality. It involves women having the same capacity as men to determine and shape their own lives and contribute in shaping the lives of their families, communities and societies.

Over the last 20 years, gender policies at WFP have evolved from a women-centred approach to focus on gender equality. In 2015, 31 percent of our beneficiaries were girls, 30 percent boys, 21 percent women and 18 percent men.

Our current policy reflects that a world with zero hunger can be achieved only when everyone has equal opportunities, equal access to resources, and equal voice in the decisions that shape their households, communities and societies. It establishes four objectives:

  • Food assistance adapted to different needs. Women, men, girls and boys benefit from food assistance programmes and activities that are adapted to their different needs and capacities.
  • Equal participation. Women and men participate equally in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of gender-transformative food security and nutrition programmes and policies.
  • Decision-making by women and girls. Women and girls have increased power in decision-making regarding food security and nutrition in households, communities and societies.
  • Gender and protection. Food assistance does no harm to the safety, dignity and integrity of the women, men, girls and boys receiving it, and is provided in ways that respect their rights.
4/5 of labour
on smallholder farms is provided by women
50 percent
of pregnant women in developing countries suffer from anaemia
women die during childbirth each year