In the developing world, one in three girls is married before age 18, and over 200,000 women die each year from pregnancy-related causes. In Sub-Saharan Africa, women account for approximately 60 percent of HIV infections, despite making up just over half of the population.

The International Center for Research on Women, or ICRW, a Washington, D.C.-based global research institute and registered nonprofit, has been working for nearly 40 years to combat statistics like these.

Founded in 1976, the ICRW conducts empirical studies intended to measure the obstacles that hinder women in the developing world from reaching their full potential. The ICRW then recommends policy priorities and designs “evidence-based plans” for donors, program designers and policy makers that enable needy women to lead happier, healthier lives.

The ICRW focuses its research on several main areas related to women’s empowerment. The first of these areas centers on issues that begin in adolescence.

Specifically, the ICRW conducts research on child marriage, education, work, healthcare and relationships. By identifying ways to make the attitudes and options of adolescent boys and girls more equitable, the ICRW hopes to empower women to take better control of their own futures.

The ICRW also focuses its research on how disparity between men and women affects agricultural productivity and food security in developing nations; women’s economic empowerment, employment opportunities and property rights; reproductive health and fertility control; HIV contraction, stigma and discrimination; and domestic violence issues.

In the four decades since its inception, the ICRW’s research has been instrumental in bringing about meaningful change in the lives of women in need. Its research efforts have, among other accomplishments, guided the passage of a 2005 law in India working to combat domestic violence, increased the availability of microfinance loans available to women in developing nations and helped integrate women’s empowerment and gender equality into the Millennium Development Goals.

With new regional offices in Kenya and India, the ICRW continues to conduct relevant research aimed to produce “a path of action that honors women’s human rights, ensures gender equality and creates the conditions in which all women can thrive.”

– Katrina Beedy

Sources: International Center for Research on Women, Coalition for Adolescent Girls
Photo: Flickr

End Violence Against Women

The president of the International Center for Research on Women has suggested a new way to end world hunger: end violence against women.

According to Sarah Degnan Kambou, women are essential to “alleviating hunger and malnutrition because they are primarily responsible for ensuring that nourishing food is available for their families.” Women who live free from violence have a “better chance of earning an income” and can therefore ensure that they and their children have enough to eat.

Currently, “as many as 7 out of 10 women worldwide…will experience some form of violence in their lifetime.” This important statistic shows both how widespread violence against women is and how extensive its negative consequences can be. Kambou also notes that violence also leaves many women with emotional and physical damage that in turn leaves them unable to earn a living or care for their families.

The issue of gendered violence is certainly not a pleasant one, but it must be addressed. Fortunately, public discussion of gender, violence, and related issues has shown positive results. A school-based program in Mumbai, India called Gender Equity Movement in Schools has reportedly resulted in “a marked shift in boys’ attitudes toward girls.”

If encouraged, programs like Gender Equity Movement in Schools could go a long way toward reducing violence against women. Not only will women be better off, but everyone will be better off. Women who live free from violence will be able to focus more on earning an income and providing food for their families, potentially leading to a reduction in hunger throughout the world.

– Jordan Kline
Source: Guardian, Action Aid USA
Photo: Face to Face Africa