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Fighting Hunger Can Be Awkward

A simple Google search for “main causes of food insecurity” pulls up a list of some things that one might expect. Drought. Pests. Poverty. Climate change. Conflict. Corruption. And so on.

Most people are aware that many people around the world are hungry. We see non-profits raising awareness about hunger issues, hashtags about ending hunger, and celebrities fighting for causes.

If many of us took a minute to ask ourselves why people are hungry, I’m sure we could come up with some of the answers that Google gave us. All these answers are very true.

Ending hunger is an easy thing to unite around.

Okay, new topic. Think of these words: gender, feminism, gender justice, gender roles.

Take a minute to calm down after reading that if you need to.

These are some very hot topics. These words have caused much debate; I’m sure we have all been part of some heated discussions around them. Many of us are probably just sick of talking about gender because we feel like our opinion won’t change anyone else’s and no matter our opinion, people will disagree.

Many of us are probably just sick of talking about gender.

But we can all agree that people shouldn’t have to go to bed hungry. We can all get behind helping communities achieve food security. Ending hunger is an easy thing to unite around. If, according to Google, food insecurity is caused by “drought, poverty, pests, climate change, conflict, corruption, et cetera”, then how can we work against those factors?

I’m afraid it’s not that easy. Google may not have given us the full answer (#wrecked). The truth is that if we really want to take a big stab at helping communities become more food secure, one of the most effective things we can do is to have conversations about gender roles, gender justice, and gender inequality. If we really want to fight hunger and food insecurity, we are going to have to face some touchy subjects.

If we really want to fight food insecurity, we are going to have to face some touchy subjects.

I was not expecting this when I first started my internship with World Renew in Amuria, Uganda. By no means do I claim to be an expert in food security, gender issues, or Africa after a month and a half in Uganda. But I have learned some things, and been able to listen to people who have been working with food-insecure communities for far longer than I did.

The communities we visited had suffered many traumas: attacks, famines, droughts, floods, and raiding. We spent a few days in each community, using community exercises to gather data. Obviously there are many factors that lead to a place being food insecure, but as we were walking away from the last communities we visited, gender justice jumped out as one of the most prominent issues that could be addressed to make the communities more food secure.

I was not expecting this when I first started my internship with World Renew.

For example, girls did not often start school until a later age. Parents feared that they would be attacked on their way to school. Then they would drop out early, after being married to older boys and getting pregnant, often at age 12-14. Most of the women would keep having kids as long as possible, meaning that most women were caring for ten to twenty kids.

The women were also in charge of all the food preparation and much of the farming, which takes a large toll on their bodies when they are often pregnant and caring for many little children. The men also worked quite a bit, but spent more of their time doing less productive activities.

Yes, issues of gender inequality are touchy and uncomfortable subjects. But it is so important that no matter what kind of compassionate work you are doing, you are not afraid to bring up uncomfortable issues.

Whatever justice initiatives you get involved with, you will have to face conversations that make people uncomfortable. People may not see eye to eye, but it is so important to have grace for each other, and to remember that as we talk about these issues in this context, the end goal of the conversation is not to be right, but to empower a group of people.

The end goal of the conversation is not to be right, but to empower a group of people.

This is not groundbreaking information. But, especially in this time of heightened polarization, it is so important to be reminded that if we are to really work for change, we are going to have to get uncomfortable. We are going to need a lot of grace for each othear, and a lot of courage to face unexpected discomfort to do our work excellently.

You can learn more about World Renew’s Gender Justice work on their website.

[Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash]

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