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Monday, March 5, 2012

Helena's Mission

Helena's Mission

SUPERMODEL Helena Christensen has just completed her third trip with international humanitarian organisation Oxfam. Here, she reports for VOGUE.COM from East Africa where she met two women - both mothers like her - whose lives have changed in recent years due to climate change."Elisabeth lives in rural Turkana, in the north of Kenya - one of the many regions in the Horn of Africa that have been affected by the severe drought that has put the lives and livelihoods of over 13 million people at risk. Josephine lives nearly 600 kilometres south of Elisabeth, in Mukuru, a vast and impoverished slum in Kenya's vibrant capital city, Nairobi. Mukuru is one of the largest slums in Kenya, yet it does not sit far away from Nairobi's luxury apartments and shiny cars. The lives of these two women have changed dramatically over the past years as they have faced a double shock: unpredictable weather and spikes in food prices. Whether or not they can provide their children with two solid meals a day is out of their control.As is often the case in poor areas, many of the women I met are responsible for feeding their families and, when times are hard, sometimes women go without food to allow their husbands and children to eat.  
On my previous trips with Oxfam, we visited Peru and Nepal - where I met and took pictures of other women struggling to cope with the impact of global warming. This time, I wanted to go to Africa and try to understand better how it can possibly be the case that climate change determines whether a mother can send her child to school and put food on the table.  
What is clear to me now is that if women are given a voice and equal standing in their communities, they could hold the keys to solving global hunger. Women produce up to 80 per cent of food in some poor countries yet they are less likely to own their own land, often toil the least productive areas and receive little financial or agricultural support. The world needs to invest more in women farmers and pastoralists.


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