By Whitner Chase, Humanitas Global
Sir Fazle Abed is the 2015 WFP Laureate|Photo Credit: Des Moines Register
A record crowd of global food security ambassadors gathered at the U.S. State Department this afternoon to witness the announcement of the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate. This year’s winner is Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder and chairperson of BRAC, the world’s largest NGO. BRAC’s work has raised almost 150 million people out of poverty internationally, an achievement that produced an audible gasp from the Ceremony’s awestruck audience. BRAC, originally the Bangladesh Relief Advancement Committee, defines its development approach as “inclusionary,” implementing programs in economic, social, legal, and health-related fields, to name a few.
Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize, spoke to attendees about Abed’s contribution to the world food supply, emphasizing BRAC’s focus on empowering young women through education. According to Quinn, “at the heart of [Abed’s] endeavor has been the central principle that our laureate identified as the key to uplifting the ultra-poor: that women need to be the agents of change and that education is a key to their taking charge of their lives.”
Honoring Abed with the World Food Prize exalts the integral role of food security in a holistic approach to global development, as well as the effects of holistic development on food security. Although BRAC’s direct work in food security was highlighted, Ambassador Quinn focused his remarks on the impacts that BRAC has achieved through their initiatives on female empowerment through education. BRAC operates over 38,000 schools that nurture boys and girls together, aiding gender justice efforts for the agricultural labor force, of which 43% are women.
Abed poses with boys and girls at a BRAC school|Photo Credit: Des Moines Register
In addition to celebrating the achievements of Sir Abed and BRAC, The World Food Prize laureate ceremony will also shine a spotlight on female farmers at their main event in October, at Borlaug 101: Fundamentals of Global Food Security, a dialogue that will emphasize women in STEM. Speakers for the event include:
- Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda
- Chelsea Clinton, Clinton Foundation Vice Chair
- Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize Winner and Banker
- Florence Chenoweth, Liberian Minister of Agriculture
- Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary
Charles Rivkin, Assistant Secretary of State for Business and Economic Affairs, as well as USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, spoke at the ceremony. Secretary Rivkin thanked the World Food Prize for their 41 years of work, and highlighted the global impact of the organization in global food security, based in southwest Iowa. Secretary Vilsack, honored by Quinn as the man who has done the most to “carry forward [Borlaug’s] vision and fulfill his dreams,” touted gender equity-based STEM education efforts not only initiated by Abed and BRAC, but also those initiated in the United States, particularly the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship and the USDA Wallace-Carver Fellowship. Ambassador Quinn addresses the crowd as Secretaries Rivkin and Vilsack look on.|Photo Credit: Savanna Henderson, Humanitas Global
Vilsack claimed that Norman Borlaug would have been interested in BRAC’s gender equity work, as Borlaug’s granddaughter, Julie, smiled from the crowd. Vilsack honored Abed for his work in food security and social justice. He celebrated the development of Abed’s mission from a temporary relief effort to an international force for good. However, the USDA head ended his keynote by uniquely expressing a very powerful sentiment: “[Abed and] the World Food Prize indicates the power of a single individual to make a difference. We are here to continue that tradition. If each of us realized the power that we have to make a difference, what a more healthy and safe and empowered world it would be.”