How would it feel if you had to go to bed hungry every night? If your daughter or son, brother or sister would weigh so little, he or she would be weaker, thinner and smaller than other children the same age? If that desperate question of how to feed your family would determine your everyday thoughts?
This is the reality of every seventh person in the world and the reality of every fourth child in developing countries. Because these people are underweight. Malnutrition has lasting effects: Children deprived of adequate nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life often have stunted growth, poor cognitive development and low immunity to disease.
But malnutrition can be reduced when women are empowered.
The causes of food insecurity are many: poor governance, climate change impacts, competition for resources, and gender inequalities. We and our partners work with communities to tackle food scarcity at its root. When children have enough to eat, they grow up healthy, are better in school, complete a higher education and have a better chance to earn a salary.
So how do we ensure that children get a nutritious diet? By empowering women and girls.
More than twenty years ago, CARE started to roll out its Village Savings and Loan (VSLA) programmes around the world. The idea: women save money together, lend each other money and start small businesses. The result: Women earn an income for the first time of their lives. They become more confident by contributing to their household’s income, start claiming their right to decide on its spending – and often use it to buy nutritious food for their families, such as fish and meat at least once a month.
But the women earned more than just money. They earned the respect of their husbands, their neighbors and their villages.