(posted by Audrey Riley for intern Karen Ward)

During the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit in September 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and others called the world to action with “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future.”

What does this mean? Damage caused by malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life—from conception to age 2—is largely irreversible. Malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished infants, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. The “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” campaign seeks to end that vicious cycle. “We must remember the critical role that women play in the health and well-being of their families—starting with nutrition,” said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute.

ELCA World Hunger focuses on women and children through nutritional programs, health care, microloans and more. In Peru, women traditionally produce beautiful woolen handcrafts. But when a community organization began to help women collaborate, this traditional craft became an important source of income for them and their families. “When we first started working together,” said one woman, “our husbands thought we were just leaving the house to gossip. Now that we have an income, they don’t complain so much!” ELCA World Hunger, working through our partner Lutheran World Relief, brought the women an electric wool-spinning machine, increasing their production and income. Your generosity to ELCA World Hunger make sustainable solutions like this and much more possible.

But why focus on women in particular? There are links between gender inequality and hunger in the developing world. Around the world, 70% of those who suffer from hunger and poverty are women. In addition to serving as the primary caregivers for their children’s health and well-being, women also make up the majority of small-holder farmers who struggle each day to grow enough food to feed them. The Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, has said that the strongest correlations exist between hunger and lack of education. Educated women in the developing world are more likely to avoid early pregnancies, HIV infection, domestic violence and exploitation. An educated mother is far more likely to send her children to school, ending the generational cycle of poverty.

Despite the vital roles women play, inequalities in education, economic empowerment, political participation and access to basic health services have a harsh impact on hunger and malnutrition. Gender inequality must end in order for us to reach the Millennium Development Goal of cutting world hunger in half by 2015. Learn more at ELCA World Hunger: Women and Children .

God bless,

Karen Ward, the 2011 summer intern with ELCA World Hunger, has moved on to her next call: seminary studies. The World Hunger staff team is sorry to see her go and wishes her the very best.