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Progress in the fight against poverty has demonstrated the importance of focusing poverty alleviation efforts on women and children. Despite the great gains that have been made, gender inequality and violence against women still exist in every country in the world. Poverty reduction efforts should focus on women because women are vital to sustainable development. The empowerment of women leads to economic growth and increased social stability.

Poverty reduction efforts should focus on women because women have fewer opportunities for equal and meaningful education, jobs, and health care. Access to these human rights is essential in order to escape from poverty. Currently, women own only one percent of all property and earn just 10 percent of all income, yet they produce half of the world’s food.

Over 70 percent of the world’s poor, those living on less than $1.25 USD per day, are women. Because women compose the majority of those living in poverty, and because they face additional hurdles in achieving economic and social equality and success, poverty reduction efforts should focus on women across the globe, especially among the most disadvantaged and marginalized populations.

Most of the world’s poor women spend the majority of their time performing household chores, including cooking, cleaning, growing or obtaining food, collecting fuel and water, and caring for family members. Women do not receive monetary compensation for these tasks, yet they compose up to 63 percent of the gross domestic product in countries like India and Tanzania. Time and energy spent on these essential tasks result in fewer opportunities for advancement, such as education or economic pursuits.

A 2000 study by the International Food Policy Research Institute found that the majority of the reduction in global hunger between 1970 and 1995 could be attributed to the improvement of women’s social status. Progress in women’s education, food availability, and health care all played major roles in the reduction of hunger.

Because women play a major role in the world’s food production, poverty reduction efforts should focus on women farmers in order to help them earn a viable income and rise above poverty. Programs have been instituted in China, Bangladesh, and the Philippines that subsidize women farmers in order to allow them to grow food while earning extra income from selling vegetables or raising animals. Access to adequate sanitation facilities, health care, and children’s education are also priorities for bringing more women out of poverty.

– Kat Henrichs

Sources: Center for American Progress, NY Times
Photo: Muslimah Source