While two-thirds of all people living in extreme poverty worldwide are women, they are systematically excluded from all levels of decision-making in regard to combating this poverty. From local villages to national politics, women are grossly underrepresented in all nations, especially those facing high rates of poverty. Gender discrimination is a driver in maintaining large pockets of poverty around the world.
While it is a social imperative to bring equal rights to women, ending discrimination against women is also vital for sustainable development and reduction in global poverty. Women can most effectively help the fight against poverty if they are educated and involved in political and economic institutions. But, there are large barriers preventing them from being having the greatest access to financial resources, healthcare, and education.
In regard to education, there are significant disparities that remain in women’s access to post-primary education. This prevents a significant percent of the world’s poor from participating productively in the work force and job markets of developing nations. Another obstacle to achieving equal rights for women is violence and sexual abuse. There are still many parts of the world that tolerate sexual abuse and the exploitation of female labor.
International poverty-fighting efforts will have to include a focus on the empowerment and extension of equal rights to women. Although the initial focus in the fight against global poverty was GDP growth figures, women will have to have access to property, employment, education, and safety that are conferred to men. Women are usually the most marginalized group in poor communities, and thus it is with them that the roots of poverty stem.
Gender equality and empowerment will increase household incomes and culminate in sustainable reductions in poverty in communities around the world. Women are required in making the most informed decisions on how to fight poverty, and it important that women have an equal representation in decisions that affect them and their communities at large.
Women have a unique perspective on issues like healthcare and nutrition because they are usually the ones rearing children and the ones doing the domestic labor and taking care of the sick, elderly, and children. Women are the caretakers of the family, those who cook and clean without any pay.
In many parts of the world, women are marginalized, oppressed and, consequently, have greater barriers in accessing education, employment, and healthcare. It is necessary to empower women and remove these barriers as the world concentrates on eradicating poverty.
While the number of people experiencing extreme poverty worldwide has decreased by 800 million from 1990 to 2008, inequality among the sexes that disproportionately affect women will make it harder to continue this trend. Economic, political, and social barriers impeding women are barriers of sustainable reductions in poverty, because nearly 70 percent of the world’s poor are women. Policy going toward poverty reduction efforts must be focused heavily on women and women’s issues.
Women usually account for half of a nation’s population. Thus, it is vital to ensure that women are awarded the same rights and opportunities as men because it maximizes their potential to impact development.
– Rahul Shah
Sources: VSO International, UN Development Program, Center For American Progress