The Hunger Project works in partnership with grassroots people in Africa, Asia and Latin America to develop effective bottom-up strategies. We have discovered three critical elements that, when combined, empower people to make rapid progress in overcoming hunger and poverty:
- Mobilising people at the grassroots level to build self-reliance
We seek to build people’s capacities, leadership and confidence. We train women and men, equipping them with the skills, methods and knowledge to take self-reliant actions to improve their lives and conditions in their communities.
The first step is the Vision, Commitment and Action Workshop (VCAW). At this village-level workshop, people create their own vision for the future, commit to achieving it and outline the actions that are needed to succeed. Each participant leaves the workshop with a specific project for the following three months based entirely on local resources. In achieving this first success, people’s initial inspiration develops into self-confidence.
Villages select local leaders as the next step (we call them animators), who will be trained to lead the VCAW for others in the area, and to facilitate the ongoing actions from the workshop.
As people take more substantial action, we provide skills training in literacy, numeracy, nutrition and local laws. We organise people into self-help groups to gain a stronger voice. Success builds on success.
It Works – 392,000 trained volunteers around the world are mobilising millions of others to take self-reliant actions. Through our Epicentre Strategy in Africa, more than 100 clusters of villages have launched village-level projects to generate their own income and build classrooms, food storage facilities and nurses’ quarters to ensure ready access to health care. More than 95,000 elected women representatives in India are speaking out and bringing water, health and education to their villages. 260,000 trained animators and volunteer youth leaders in Bangladesh are initiating projects such as campaigns against early marriage, dowry and violence against women; education programmes for safe drinking water, nutrition and sanitation; birth registration for rural communities; and income-generating activities. Thousands of indigenous and rural villagers in Latin America are exercising their civil and human rights.
- Empowering women as key change agents
Women bear almost all responsibility for meeting basic needs of the family, but they are denied the resources, information and freedom of action they need to fulfill this responsibility.
The vast majority of the world’s poor are women. Two-thirds of the world’s illiterate people are female. Of the millions of school age children not in school, the majority are girls. And today, HIV/AIDS is rapidly becoming a woman’s disease. In several southern African countries, more than three-quarters of all young people living with HIV are women.
Around the world, millions of people eat two or three times a day, but a significant percentage of women eat only once. And, now, many women are denying themselves even that one meal to ensure that their children are fed.
Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, all of society benefits. Their families are healthier, more children go to school, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase. In short, communities become more resilient.
The Hunger Project firmly believes that empowering women to be key change agents is an essential element to achieving the end of hunger and poverty. Wherever we work, our programmes aim to support women and build their capacity.
It Works – Our Microfinance Programmes provide women food farmers easy access to credit, adequate training and instilling in them the importance of saving and income generation, 1.3 million people have taken the HIV/AIDS and Gender Inequality Workshop, In India, our Women’s Leadership Workshop has empowered over 95,000 women elected to local councils to be effective change agents in their villages. In Bangladesh, we catalysed the formation of a 300-organisation alliance that organises more than 800 events across the country each September in honour of National Girl Child Day, a day to focus on eradicating all forms of discrimination against girls.
- Forging partnerships with local government
Local government is closest to the people and has the mission of working with people to meet their basic needs. The Hunger Project works in partnership with local government bodies to ensure that they are effective, include the leadership of women, are directly accountable to local people, and provide access to resources and information.
In order to strengthen local government, The Hunger Project also works from the top down, lobbying for state and national law changes, and in some cases court rulings, to shift power to the hands of the people.
It Works – In India, we have expanded the capacities of over 95,000 elected women leaders, who are now exercising their leadership and bringing about change in their villages, affecting millions of others in rural India. In Bangladesh, we work with 508 union parishads (local government bodies) ensuring 100 percent sanitary latrine coverage, 100 percent birth and death registration, and open budget meetings to provide transparency and accountability. In Africa, local government officials are included at every stage of our Epicentre Strategy. When the villagers build the epicentre building, local government provides nurses, teachers and supplies for the preschool and health clinic.
The Hunger Project’s approach is different from the conventional, top-down planning used by many development agencies and governments. These top-down approaches follow a service-delivery model and often undermine our most important resource: the creativity and self-reliance of people living in conditions of hunger and poverty themselves.