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Women's Success Is the World's Success

Impact Stories by Catherine Bertini
A group of girls sit at their desks at a school in Kenya.

Council Distinguished Fellow and Former Executive Director of the World Food Program Catherine Bertini reflects on why elevating women and girls worldwide matters.

All around the world, governments, countries, and communities are more successful the more women and girls are in school. Girls, especially in rural communities, are a Rosetta stone for the work we have yet to do to end poverty and hunger.

The success of women and girls will be the success of the economic wellbeing of the world.

Yet, today, around 60 percent of those facing food insecurity are women. Why? It’s not as simple as access to food. It's about access to resources like education, economic agency, and power.

We’re celebrating Women’s History Month, but there’s still so much work to do. Afghan women are barred from attending secondary school. Some girls in Iran risk poisonous gas to attend school. The stakes are high. New career paths and social mobility come from education, and by extension so do opportunities for whole families and communities. The benefits ripple outward.

"The success of women and girls will be the success of the economic wellbeing of the world."

How we research, fund, and execute policy can create true change. To get there, we must organize ourselves to put more thoughtful people in power, and that includes women. Too often still, women are rendered invisible, from farming communities to city skyscrapers. In my ten years leading the World Food Programme I saw this, and I still see it.

Organizations like the Lamia Afghan Foundation, the Galkayo Educational Centre for Peace and Development, and yes, the Council, give me hope. The former two were just named 2023 awardees for the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education, and they’re doing work in Afghanistan and Somalia to provide schooling to young girls. It's the job of nonprofits like the Council to engage you and people like you in these conversations—to show how the stories of women and girls worldwide matter.

And that goes for women in the Council’s community today. Your ideas, dreams, and ambition mean something. And you have an important place in shaping a better global community. I hope you take it.

Protestors in support of Iranian women and against the death of Mahsa Amini in Istanbul, Turkey
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About the Author
Distinguished Fellow, Global Food and Agriculture
Council expert Catherine Bertini
Catherine Bertini served as executive director of the UN World Food Program, the world’s largest international humanitarian agency, from 1992 to 2002 prior to joining the Council. She was named the World Food Prize laureate in 2003 for her groundbreaking leadership there.
Council expert Catherine Bertini

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