UN Chronicle

Women as victims and resolvers of hunger – Guest Column – Angola – Brief Article

Women as victims and resolvers of hunger – Guest Column – Angola – Brief Article – Column

Ana Paula dos Santos

Women, especially in the Angolan society, are one of the main victims of hunger, not only because they constitute the majority of the population, but also due to the special circumstances in which their society finds itself as a result of the direct and indirect consequences of war, whose main victims are the most vulnerable groups.

They are part of these groups because of their position in the social fabric, in which they play the roles of mother, educator, head of the family and as the main source of sustenance–a situation that is frequently aggravated by a state of widowhood, apart from being the main working force in a country where the economic and social structures have been destroyed or seriously damaged by war, and its agricultural fields are mined by the rebels who carry out terrorist acts with the aim of destabilizing the country.

The war–the main cause of hunger–attacks mainly the displaced populations, who in a short span of time found themselves deprived of self-sustenance and the ability to continue to participate regularly in the productive process. This situation led to the destruction of the social fabric and the agglomeration of populations in the peripheral areas in precarious situations of unemployment, insalubrity and needs of various kinds. The consequent lack of sources of revenue results in their dependence on donations as a means of survival.

Hunger is an expression of extreme poverty, and the Angolan Government is saving no efforts to satisfy the population’s basic needs, despite the many other problems they face, with the objective of avoiding their exclusion and encouraging their reintegration in normal social life. In such circumstances, women are part of the problem and also of the solution, because as victims of the economic, social, conjunctural and structural phenomenon of hunger, they also constitute, when capacitated, an active factor in the eradication of hunger and in the development and prosperity of themselves and the society.

If we understood that the development of any society includes the economic advancement of women, we would understand that the eradication of poverty necessarily should include capacity-building in production and, consequently, the increase of revenues for women. In this perspective, they play a very important role in the many programmes that the State and private or non-governmental institutions carry out, with a view to allowing their reintegration in the productive process through adequate projects capable of guaranteeing their continuity autonomously. Micro-credits have been indicated as one of the quickest and most adequate forms of making this objective feasible because they have less risk than those projects of a bigger dimension.

On the other hand, these initiatives can provide greater economic empowerment, which is necessary for the revitalization of the economy at the level of the more vulnerable groups of society.

This process, however, should have an evolving characteristic, because its success depends on the continuous capacity-building of its agents and the increase of their revenues, so as to provide not only an improvement in their living conditions but also a means of creating sources of investment. Depending on the different areas in which this principle is applied, whether in agriculture or in arts and crafts, the determining factor is their professional capacity-building and the constant and regular improvement of their basic and scientific technologies at the highest level, in order to provide greater productivity.

Apart from scientific assistance, a sociological and psychological follow-up is important for the integration or reintegration of people into the productive process. In these conditions, the social work division should be accompanied by a change of mentality, from an activity that should cease to be subsistence to a market economy and co-participation in a more ample and collective production process. This change of mentality will allow women to play a more active role in the eradication of hunger, whether it be in food production in the rural areas or in the development of other profitable economic activities in the urban areas–adequate initiatives to the social conditions in which they live.

COPYRIGHT 2001 United Nations Publications

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