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Empowering Women to Face Down Global Economic and Food Challenges | Mainstage

PROGRAMMING partner:CARE horizontal orange e1635449066340 - Empowering Women to Face Down Global Economic and Food Challenges | Mainstage

Michelle Nunn, President and CEO, CARE USA
Taryn Barclay, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships, Cargill
Rosita Najmi, Senior Director, Head of Social Innovation, PayPal
Elise Labott, Columnist, Foreign Policy
Silvia Cruz-Vargas, Director, International Programs, The PepsiCo Foundation

Women are the backbones of their communities and in that capacity can lift up their economies and societies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the extra burden of caregiving left many women with increasing hardship and mental health effects. Elise Labott, Columnist at Foreign Policy, explained that in combination with climate change and regional conflict, we are at a global crossroads where millions are at risk of rolling back progress against poverty.

Michelle Nunn, President & CEO of CARE USA, described the need to center women and girls in a multi-sector response. There are currently more than 40 million people at risk of famine so we must ensure that food systems can sustain themselves and provide livelihoods and nutrition to women farmers. Over the last 50 years, Cargill has supported women in agriculture to feed growing populations, described Taryn Barclay, Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships at Cargill. A focus on women farmers leads to benefits for the whole community. Silvia Cruz-Vargas, Director of International Programs at The PepsiCo Foundation, agreed, highlighting her company’s efforts through CARE’s She Feeds the World program. 

Without gender equality, Nunn explained, it will not be possible to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Women and girls need to be centered in solutions, provided social protections, and promoted to leadership positions. Capacity building is crucial. Democratizing access to capital can help women’s empowerment, said Rosita Najmi, Senior Director, Head of Social Innovation at PayPal. Improving and disaggregating data helps uncover the short-, medium-, and long-term impact. PayPal works to actively recruit SDG-focused organizations, encourage donations, and commit to skills-based volunteering. 

The last year provided lessons beyond COVID-19. After hurricanes in Central America, Cargill responded quickly to help farmers recover and build resistance. The best way to partner, Barclay explained, is for the private and public sectors to develop longstanding and enduring relationships with the communities they engage with in order to provide them with relevant technical expertise and access to markets.

Vargas reinforced the importance of balancing the short- and long-term impacts, and to react with trust, transparency, and kindness. Njami shared PayPal’s work to encourage commitment and collaboration. Labott concluded the session with a call to move to bigger and better by listening to women’s voices, placing them at the center of programs across sectors.

What most people don’t know is that over half of the world’s population depends on people whose livelihoods are generated from the food system, yet they are often the most poor and those who are receiving the least nutritious food.

Michelle Nunn

To feed a growing population and protect our planet, we need to celebrate and elevate the farmers who are transforming systems and we also need to collaborate across the supply chain with farmers, ranchers, customers, and partners to scale solutions that can drive lasting change.

Taryn Barclay

You can’t know women and girls until you can see them.

Rosita Najmi

As we know, women are at the backbone of every society, but particularly in vulnerable societies they’re the nurturers, the caregivers, often the breadwinners, yet they face incredible obstacles just for being women.

Elise Labott

We want to take the lessons we have learned and eventually expand our partnership to other countries and other territories.

Silvia Cruz-Vargas

Key takeaways & next steps:

  • Investing in women farmers can help strengthen food system resilience at both a community and global level.
  • Centering women’s voices in public-private partnerships improves outcomes over the long term.