As the United States grapples with the gender gap, countries abroad deal with an even larger one. Women abroad face economic, political, social and structural barriers that prevent them from succeeding in a competitive market, revealing a correlation between gender and poverty.
ONE, an international campaign and advocacy organization, has addressed an open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Both leading women will hold meetings at the upcoming G7 Summit in Germany and African Union Summit in South Africa. In both meetings, there will be one agenda: women’s empowerment.
This year, a blueprint will be drawn up for the new global goals, which will influence investments for the next 15 years. Known as the Sustainable Development Goals, the plan aims to target its efforts on eradicating global poverty by 2030. With this in mind, ONE’s goal to address gender and poverty is crucial. The letter addresses the critical need to raise awareness for women’s rights in regards to global poverty, especially in African governments.
“The poorest women are often barred from owning and inheriting land and other property, opening a bank account, or accessing education. Women in the developing world are far more likely to die giving birth, become child brides (and suffer abuse from their husbands), or suffer from chronic health problems,” ONE reports.
These issues also extend to women’s opportunities in agriculture, which has been reported to be the most effective at reducing poverty. According to the “Poverty is Sexist” report, agricultural productivity for females is 23 to 66 percent lower than males. With the lack of access to labor, tools, extension services and financing, these problems persist. However, if efforts were refocused on women and poverty, it is projected that agriculture could increase by 20 to 30 percent, feeding 100 to 150 million additional people.
How can efforts be refocused on this gender-sensitive subject? When women are placed at the forefront of the new development agenda, better targeted investments are made in health, education and economic empowerment. These investments have specific challenges and opportunities; however, by reducing the gender gap in poorer countries, strides can be made.
“Reducing differences in the employment rate between men and women by 2017 could generate an additional $1.6 trillion in global output,” says ONE.
In addition, stronger health systems that benefit women could decrease maternal and child deaths; reliable energy could allow women and girls to spend less time collecting fuel (increasing time for economic pursuits); and quality education could create an economic and social benefit for the entire world.
Influential women around the world have already signed ONE’s petition to raise awareness for women in poverty—including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Meryl Streep. The petition can be signed here.
– Briana Galbraith