Prioritizing Gender Equality in All Aspects of Nonprofit Work

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Maggie Luckadoo

When the United Nations outlined its 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, it set forth that Goal 5, achieving gender equality, is key to transforming the world and eliminating poverty. The UN states that gender equality is “critical to all areas of a healthy society, from reducing poverty to promoting the health, education, protection and the well-being of girls and boys.”

Globally, women in the labor market earn 24 percent less than men, according to the UN. USAID reports that 98 million girls around the world are not in school, and 1 in 3 women will experience gender-based violence. The persistence of women’s inequality is a roadblock to social progress around the globe.

“Gender inequality is a pressing global issue with huge ramifications not just for the lives and livelihoods of girls and women, but, more generally, for human development, labor markets, productivity and GDP growth,” says Edna Ogwangi, Rise Against Hunger’s Chief Impact Officer.

Rise Against Hunger, an international hunger relief organization based in Raleigh, N.C, recognizes gender equality as an important cross-cutting issue in its strategy for addressing food security and ending world hunger by 2030.

Women play a critical and potentially transformative role in agricultural growth and food security in developing countries, but they face persistent obstacles and economic constraints which limit further inclusion in these areas.

Edna Ogwangi

“Even in countries where women constitute the majority of smallholder farmers and do more than 75 percent of the agricultural work, they are routinely denied the right to own the land they cultivate and on which they are dependent to raise their families,” Ogwangi shares. “Ownership of land and property empowers women and provides income and security. Without the security of a home or income, women and their families fall into poverty traps and struggle for livelihoods, education, sanitation, health care and other basic rights.”

By empowering women and girls, nonprofit leaders have the opportunity to unlock potential on a global scale.

USAID frames this opportunity: “When women participate in civil society and politics, governments are more open, democratic and responsive to citizens. When women are at the negotiating table, peace agreements are more inclusive and durable. And simply by empowering women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies and capital as men, we can increase crop yields by as much as 30 percent helping to feed a growing population.”

Regardless of mission, nonprofit organizations should prioritize gender equality both within their staffs, as well as in their program areas.

“Every major cultural, operational, or strategic change in an organization requires personal passion and ‘skin in the game,’” Ogwangi shares. “Role modeling from senior leaders and gender diversity is no exception — both at a business level as well as at the programming field level for projects we support.”

To achieve this, Ogwangi suggests that nonprofits treat gender diversity and women’s empowerment like any other strategic business initiative with a goal, plan and set measurable targets.

“We must articulate a well-supported point of view on the value women bring to our organizations, as well as to programs we support in the field,” she says. “This can be done by developing gender case studies that will enable us analyze and get insights on various types of initiatives that promote gender diversity and empowerment both at organizational and programming levels.”

Maggie Luckadoo has served as the Rise Against Hunger Content Strategist since May 2016. As a member of the Marketing team, Maggie contributes to the Rise Against Hunger website, blog and various other messaging platforms. Maggie holds a master’s degree in public administration with a focus in nonprofit management from Appalachian State University and a B.A. in International Journalism from NC State. She previously worked on the Member Communications team at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Edna Ogwangi, Rise Against Hunger Chief Impact Officer, holds a master’s degree in social work specializing in international development. Edna has nearly two decades of experience in managing, implementing and monitoring economic development and school feeding programs around the globe.

Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now), an international hunger relief organization based in Raleigh, N.C., works to implement immediate and long-term solutions to hunger worldwide. With program locations in 20 U.S. cities and five international offices, Rise Against Hunger has engaged volunteers to package more than 310 million nutrient rich meals for distribution to 74 countries around the globe. 

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