The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been reaching out to more women today than any other time in history through its livelihoods-based programme in Cox's Bazar District.
This month, 15,000 additional women have enrolled in the Enhancing Food Security and Nutrition (EFSN) livelihoods programme as the agency expands into the district's most disaster-prone areas of Moheshkhali, Pekua and Kutubdia for the first time, says a press release.
Upon completion of training and the submission of a business plan, programme participants receive a substantive start-up grant to invest in their new businesses. More than 816 group businesses were started in 2020 through the programme and nearly BDT 80,000,000 was raised and saved in collective bank accounts held by participants' Self-Help Groups.
WFP already supports 30,000 women through the programme in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts.
Enhancing Food Security and Nutrition (EFSN) livelihoods programme of the WFP has supported women throughout the Cox's Bazar District with entrepreneurial training and financial literacy to help them achieve long-term and sustainable food security since 2012. In response to the pandemic, WFP has effectively doubled the number of women enrolled in the two-year programme.
"While the coronavirus pandemic pushed many vulnerable families to the edge of hunger last year, women were put in particularly precarious positions as they tried to balance keeping food on the table while carrying out increased responsibilities at home," said Sheila Grudem, WFP Senior Emergency Coordinator in Cox's Bazar.
"WFP has extended and scaled up its livelihoods activities so that women most at risk have an added safety- net during this difficult period and can gain the knowledge and financial security they need to get them through future ones."
"Putting women at the centre of earning opportunities doesn't just ensure Zero Hunger futures for them but benefits whole families and communities," Ms Grudem added.
The programme has also been extended to help women with agricultural-based businesses better access markets to sell their produce and livestock, including in the Rohingya refugee camps where WFP provides food assistance to over 850,000 refugees.
So far, WFP has connected 18,849 women to food markets inside the camps, including WFP's Fresh Food Corners where refugees can access fresh fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the programme's monthly cash allowances have started being distributed through bKash, the national mobile financial service, further strengthening participants' financial inclusion in the country.
Data from WFP indicates that women-headed households in Cox's Bazar District continued to be at risk of increased vulnerability last year and, on average, earned nearly 30 percent less than male-headed households. Globally, women are more likely than men to go hungry, as highlighted today by WFP on International Women's Day. Yet women reinvest 90 percent of their resources back into their families and communities, making them powerful contributors to ending hunger.