President Joyce Banda of the Republic of Malawi stands out as a powerful leader when it comes to the empowerment of women and has woven this commitment into her plans for the future of the Republic of Malawi. The empowerment of women is a relatively new development in Africa where 22.9% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly one in four, suffers from chronic persistent hunger. Only recently have the world’s leading experts recognized and acknowledged that the empowerment of women must be an essential part of any strategy designed to eliminate hunger and poverty.
President Banda, Malawi’s first female president and only the second woman to lead a country in Africa was this years keynote speaker at the Hunger Project’s annual fall event. My wife and I attended this celebration in New York along with 500 other activists.
President Banda, 1997 winner of the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, and a long time supporter of the Hunger Project, shared with us a legacy of amazing accomplishments. Of note is a grass-roots organization she founded called the National Association of Business Women currently topping 30,000 members. The Association’s core work is economic development driven by the empowerment of women – mostly poor, uneducated women who participate in business and technical training and work towards creating dialogue with policymakers to empower women business owners.
Mobilizing poor uneducated women in a male dominated country was not an easy feat where women make up 60% of the hungry. It wasn’t until President Banda had grown her fledgling Association to over 4,000 women that governmental leaders saw she was a force to be reckoned with and had no choice but to embrace her work. While hunger and poverty continue to be front and center in Malawi, thanks to powerful women like Joyce Banda, there has been a steady and significant decline in the number of people who suffer from this chronic condition.
The Hunger Project is a global movement and a strategic organization founded in 1977. Their mission is to end hunger and poverty by pioneering sustainable, grassroots, women-centered strategies and advocating for the widespread adoption in countries throughout the world.