|Why hunger is occurring: Social reasons
Often, the root of hunger in a particular
country is not simply that they can't afford it. Many times, it is
that there are underlying cultural beliefs which prevent progress.
When members of a society are impeded from contributing all that
they can with due respect, the potential improvement of that
society is equally impeded. People are being restricted from
helping their communities not because they are physically or
economically restrained, but are instead limited by the often
deeply rooted social structures and 'rules,' official or
A women completes her homework in-between
I spoke with Lee Traband, on the staff of The Hunger Project
(www.thp.org) about some of the unique
principles that the organization works by. She said that THP
believes in helping to spur a "society-wide transformation," where
in most cases changes need to be made all over the social,
political, and economic ladder.
|"You can tell the condition
of a nation by looking at the status of its women."
Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (prime minister of
After returning from a recent visit to India,
Lee described what conditions have been like. "In India and
Bangladesh, women [have been] considered subhuman." Womens' sole
job for centuries past has been to take care of their family.
India's hereditary caste system, formed in about 1500 BC already
subjugated many of these women, but they were still valued less
than the men in their same caste.
Lee added that when the group from The Hunger Project,
including herself, went to speak to a small village, the men all
sat in front and all of the women in the back. The president of The
Hunger Project, a women herself, chastised the village, and forced
the group to mix men and women. It was considered "radical" for men
and women to sit together, and imagine how radical it would then be
for men and women to work together!
In other areas where THP had already been
working for a while, Lee said that "Women [now] take charge and
address issues" that are important to them. One of the key
philosophies of The Hunger Project is "Indigenous Leadership,"
motivating the local residents to decide for themselves what needs
to be improved in their communities, instead of some foreign
charity abroad. Lee said that now, 1/3rd of the village council in
made of women, and women "emerge from their huts and become great
public leaders." THP helps these newfound leaders by connecting
them with resources that can help them or providing what's missing.
Lee said that the people themselves know what they need the most,
whether it's healthcare, education, medical assistance, or anything
|"I was told Indian women
don't think like that about equality. But I would like to argue
that if they don't think like that they should be given a real
opportunity to think like that."
Parmita Shastri, Outlook India,
The Hunger Project has focused on the subjugation of women in
India to ending hunger in the region. Such dramatic changes to the
social infrastructure of India are making progress and empowering
half the population to take action. From The Hunger Project
"In South Asia - like in many developing
countries - society holds women responsible for all the key actions
required to end hunger: family nutrition, health, education, food
production and - increasingly - family income. Yet at the same time
- through laws, custom and tradition - women are denied the
resources, the information and freedom of action they need to carry
out these responsibilities. This situation holds hunger in
Women learning how to
use their new food sorting machine in Senegal
It's not that women are incapable of making
progress, or that they do not want to. It's that they are
restricted by their own culture. Changes to this social structure
affect every level of humanity, and while often it is hard to
change traditions that have been set for over 3000 years, social
changes are among the most important changes that must be made to
establish a stable, hunger-free world.