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WFP livelihoods program supports record number of women in Cox’s Bazar

  • Published at 06:02 pm March 8th, 2021
Women shak vegetable green crop land agriculture farmer
Women shak vegetable green crop land agriculture farmer Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Fifteen thousand additional women have been enrolled in the program this month

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is reaching more women today than any other time in the history of its livelihoods-based program in Cox’s Bazar district.

Since 2012, the WFP’s Enhancing Food Security and Nutrition (EFSN) livelihoods program has supported women throughou Cox’s Bazar with entrepreneurial training and financial literacy to help them achieve long-term and sustainable food security. 

This month, 15,000 additional women have been enrolled in the program as the agency expands into the district’s most disaster-prone areas of Moheshkhali, Pekua and Kutubdia for the first time, reads a press release. 

WFP already supports 30,000 women through the program in Ukhiya and Teknaf sub-districts.

“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 safetynet during this difficult period and can gain the knowledge and financial security they need to get them through future ones.”

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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% less than male-headed households. 

Globally, women are more likely than men to go hungry, as highlighted on Monday by WFP on International Women’s Day. Yet women reinvest 90% of their resources back into their families and communities, making them powerful contributors to ending hunger. 

In response to the pandemic, WFP has effectively doubled the number of women enrolled in the two-year program. Upon completion of training and the submission of a business plan, program participants receive a substantive start-up grant to invest in their new businesses. More than 816 group businesses were started in 2020 through the program and nearly Tk80,000,000 was raised and saved in collective bank accounts held by participants’ Self-Help Groups. 

“Putting women at the centre of earning opportunities doesn’t just ensure Zero Hunger futures for them but benefits whole families and communities,” Grudem added. 

The program 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 program’s monthly cash allowances have started being distributed through bKash, the national mobile financial service, further strengthening participants’ financial inclusion in the country.