The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has called for empowerment of women to boost global efforts to end hunger.

A press statement issued by WFP and copied the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Monday said WFP provides food for more than eleven million schoolgirls to help keep them in educational institutions.

It also supports around three million vulnerable women with special nutritional support every year.

The statement quoted WFP Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin as saying: ?Giving women the power to make choices over their lives is one of the first steps towards a world with zero hunger.

?In every country where WFP works, women form the core of its programmes to tackle the problems of food insecurity and under nutrition.

?We work with women farmers, traders, nutrition workers, school cooks and we serve millions of schoolgirls, pregnant women and nursing mothers?.

Ms Cousin noted that one example of a WFP programme that focuses on women?s advancement is ?Purchase for Progress, or P4P,? an initiative that helps smallholder farmers, particularly women, become competitive players in the marketplace by producing food for sale and use in WFP programmes

The statement said in Ghana, almost half of the 1,500 smallholder farmers participating in the P4P initiative are women.

The statement said in northern Ghana, where women traditionally reap, thresh and process rice for sale using tedious manual methods of parboiling, P4P had provided farmer groups with rice threshers and reapers as well as semi-mechanized par boilers to ease the physical burden of their work.

It explained that with support from other partners including UN Women, Women in Agricultural Development of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and FAO, WFP had developed a P4P Gender action plan to address the specific challenges women faced.

?WFP is targeting to train over 700 women this year,? It said.

The statement also quoted Pippa Bradford, WFP Representative and Country Director as saying: ?WFP has strong partners who provide women farmers with training in areas that they have identified to improve their ability to compete in the marketplace.?

It said a report by WFP?s sister agency the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated that closing the gender gap in agriculture by giving women farmers more resources could bring the number of hungry people in the world down by more than 100 million people.

It noted that the State of Food and Agriculture 2010-2011 report found that women lacked access to land, credit, tools and seeds that could boost agricultural production.

?WFP is the world?s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. On average, WFP reaches more than 90 million people with food assistance in 80 countries each year,? the statement added. GNA

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