For more than 100 years, International Women's Day — celebrated on March 8 — has highlighted the achievements of women while also looking to future possibilities. LWR celebrates International Women's Day through events around the country to inspire others to join us in fighting poverty and injustice.
LWR lifts up the strength, resilience, and potential of women throughout its work. Here are the stories of three inspiring women:
Meet Lakwande and Noali
Lakwande and Noali
Lankwande and Noali live in the village of Piaga in Burkina Faso. Over the past several years, a combination of unstable rain patterns, drought and rising food costs have put more than 20 million people at risk of hunger in the Sahel region of West Africa.
During times of crisis, women farmers around the world tend to be particularly vulnerable. They typically own less land, livestock and other assets and often have to sell what little they have to make ends meet. The conditions in West Africa have meant that women like Lankwande and Noali have had to make hard choices to get by.
Lutheran World Relief is helping through an effort called Resilience Plus which reaches out to communities in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to help families cope in these difficult circumstances. With local partners, we are helping farmers learn sustainable strategies for growing food, earning income and coping with changing weather patterns.
Lankwande and Noali are both leaders in their village’s women’s group. LWR is working with this group, along with two others, to find more sustainable sources of income and to support one another. One way women are helping each other is through a traditional livestock sharing process called habbanaye (hah-bah-nah-yeh). Together, the women identified the most vulnerable women in their community who would receive both male and female goats, along with training on their care. When the goats produce kids, the women pass along the adults to another family in need. Slowly, the women of Piaga are building herds of goats that will provide milk and income for their families.
Mina Devi never knew she could make a real income selling vegetables from her garden.
But that’s just what she’s doing, thanks to the Lutheran World Relief project in her village. Mina lives in Bihar, one of India’s poorest places and one of the poorest regions in the world.
Mina recalls that when she was young, she could not finish school because her family couldn’t afford to send her. As an adult, her family was nearly financially devastated when she desperately needed medical care. Unfortunately, this story is all too common among the women of Bihar. Many times, when an urgent need arises, families just don’t have the money and have to borrow from a loan shark. The exorbitant interest and fees keep families mired in debt and poverty. That’s why Lutheran World Relief is working with women farmers like Mina to grow vegetables, earn income and build better lives for their families. We’ve helped women form self-help groups where they learn improved vegetable farming techniques, financial literacy skills and can support one another. For example, if a woman in the group needs money, she can borrow from the group savings at a low interest rate.
These days Mina grows all types of vegetables, including gourds and vibrant eggplant. She’s able to sell her vegetables at the market and earn an income to not only support her family’s basic needs but also to send her children to school and pay for medical care. Her husband helps in the garden too. Together with Lutheran World Relief, this family is working their way out of poverty and into a future of lasting promise.
Maria del Cid Aguilar is a coffee farmer who lives in the community of Las Marias, in El Salvador. In fact, she’s a leader in one of the communities where Lutheran World Relief has been working with farmers to improve their coffee crops so that farmers can earn sustainable incomes to support their families. The worldwide demand for coffee makes it a lucrative cash crop with the potential to help many farmers rise out of poverty. Recently, coffee crops in the area have faced a dangerous threat: a crop disease called la roya, or, leaf rust. This aggressive disease attacks coffee trees and kills them. Once a coffee tree dies, a new one must be planted to replace its production. And coffee trees can take 3-5 years to produce coffee beans. Maria’s coffee crop was destroyed by leaf rust.
To help farmers like her, LWR is working with local partners to help in a number of ways. One important way Maria is combating the effects of leaf rust is to diversify her crops. With LWR’s support, she received cocoa seedlings that withstand higher temperatures and humidity. She’s been planting them between her coffee crops. Meanwhile, she and other farmers will work to recover their coffee crops, but diversifying means she’ll have some income in the meantime. By providing a sustainable way to diversify her income, this project is helping Maria cope with difficult circumstances, both now and into the future.
Through its Learning for Gender Integration (LGI) Initiative, LWR is integrating gender into its work to address inequality around the world and ensure that men and women have equal opportunities to benefit from LWR's work. Learn More.
If women had the same access to productive resources as men, farm yields would increase by 20 to 30 percent, reducing the number of hungry people by 12 to 17 percent (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization).
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