The combination of hunger, reduced incomes and skyrocketing costs of living is causing tremendous stress on households, and devastatingly, women and girls are paying the price. Amy O’Toole, Director of Gender Justice at CARE, said: “Our new analysis shows that as hunger rises, so does the risk of gender-based violence in a world where people are struggling to get food on the table.”
CARE research with communities in Somalia, a country hit by an escalating hunger crisis, points to a stunning 200% increase in violence against women and girls between 2021 and 2022, particularly intimate partner violence and rape.
“When food and water are scarce, women and girls often walk much longer distances in search of it, and particularly in conflict situations, this increases their likelihood of being attacked or being forced to trade sex for food,” said Amira Taha, CARE’s Global Coordinator for gender-based violence in emergencies.
When food is insufficient, some families take the extreme measure of marrying off their young daughters. “Unfortunately, in some of the world’s hunger pangs, girl marriage is increasingly being used as a means of coping,” Ms Taha said.
Girls who marry young mean they are less likely to attend school and more likely to experience violence throughout their lives. Globally, girls married before the age of 15 were almost 50% more likely to have experienced physical or sexual violence from intimate partners than girls married after the age of 18.
Ms O’Toole said: “It is critical that we take action to address the specific challenges women and girls face as a result of rising hunger and continue to invest in comprehensive programs that address the root causes of gender-based violence. But to do this effectively, we must harness the voices and leadership of women and upend the unequal power dynamics that drive inequality and risk.”
Read CARE’s analysis
Gender-based violence and food security: what we know and why food security is the answer
Notes to the editor:
Global hunger crisis
205.1 million people in 45 countries are currently suffering from acute hunger
CARE’s Indashyikirwa project in Rwanda resulted in a 55 percent reduction in women’s risk of experiencing intimate partner violence and increased their food security. Four years after the end of the project, the increased gender equality in the families gained through the program is helping the couples to deal with crises more proactively and on an equal footing.
CARE’s Abdiboru project in Ethiopia reduced early marriage by 44% and tripled the proportion of girls who reported eating the same foods as boys, rather than being denied certain foods.