POVERTY IS SEXIST:
“It’s about time someone said it. Being born female in one of the world’s poorest countries means your life will be harder, simply because of your gender. Unlocking the full potential of girls and women wouldn’t just transform their own lives, or even their families’ – it could help end extreme poverty for good”. – ONE
“Being born female in one of the world’s poorest countries means your life will be harder, simply because of your gender”. I often think about those words. As an American woman, who is healthy, educated and has been blessed with amazing opportunities to see the world, I wonder what my life would be like if I’d been born somewhere else. Like India or Chad or Afghanistan. Would I just be a number?
The more I see and learn about the world, the more I realize that life is unfair in many ways and on many levels. Some inequities cannot be changed. However, some can. Being born a woman should not mean that you should have less opportunities to reach your potential. Nor should it mean if you are poor, that your opportunities are even more limited. Yet this is the world we live in today. A world in which violence against women and girls persists at “alarmingly high levels” per the UN. A world in which 800 women die each and every day during childbirth just because they are living in the developing world. A world in which boys are much more likely to be fed, go to school, and reach their potential. A world in which I desperately want to change.
Ethiopia has some of the highest levels of child marriage in the world. Furthermore, the number of girls going to primary school in the UK is equal to the number of girls not going to primary school in Ethiopia.
Can it be changed? Yes it can.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8th the ONE Campaign has launched “Poverty is Sexist”, a new campaign aimed at pushing world leaders to establish new global goals to improve the lives of women and girls worldwide by 2030. It is a fact that the only way we can end extreme poverty, create peace, security and prosperity around the world is by improving the lives of women and girls around the globe.
This isn’t revolutionary knowledge. Instead, gender inequality has existed since the beginning of mankind. It is a known fact that girls and women are hit hardest by extreme poverty across every aspect of their life including food security, education, opportunity, access to health care and mortality.
Poverty and gender inequality go hand in hand, whether you look at health, education or work. Not only are girls and women worse off than those in wealthier countries, but the gender gap in these areas between males and females is greatest in the poorest countries. This double disadvantage means that:
- A woman in Sierra Leone is 183 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Switzerland.
- Working women in the least developed countries are three times more likely to be in vulnerable employment than women elsewhere.
- In the poorest countries, literacy levels are a third lower for women than men.
- 39,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day.
- Land, safe energy, technology, inheritance and financial services are often out of reach for women.
“This system needs to change – and not only because it is a source of endemic, global injustice. Put simply, poverty is sexist, and we won’t end it unless we face up to the fact that girls and women get a raw deal.” – ONE campaign
This may all sound very discouraging. However, there is hope. And I have seen it.
Inside the urban slums of Delhi where young entrepreneur Sonal Kapoor, founder of Protsahan, is getting girls off the streets and into education. In the rural parts of Ethiopia where women like Tirigno Alenerw and Fasika Menge, two of Ethiopia’s 38,000 trained Health Extension Workers, are providing critical health services to woman and girls. Inside the heart of La Paz, Bolivia where women at SutiSana are helping women leave a life of prostitution and create a sustainable life for themselves with dignity.
Women hold the key to change.
According to a new analysis published by The ONE Campaign: “Poverty is Sexist: Why girls and women must be at the heart of the fight to end extreme poverty” shows how unlocking women’s economic potential could improve the lives of everyone in society, and highlights how two summits hosted by two world-leading women this year represent a historic opportunity to turn things around. Meryl Streep, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Angelique Kidjo are among 35 influential women backing ONE’s campaign for world leaders to put girls and women center stage in 2015, a year when world leaders must agree new global goals to set the development agenda for a generation.
As the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draw to a close and new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are being set for 2030, there is no better time than now to ensure that these new goals include measures to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. The time to act is now and there is much we can do together to ensure change.
What kind of world do you want for your children? For your grandchildren? For your girls? A more peaceful and equitable one, or a continuation of what we face today. It is up to us. Use your voice and be heard.
What you can do:
- Sign ONE‘s petition calling on world leaders to put girls and women at the heart of the development agenda.
- Share ONE’s open letter, signed by more than 35 high-profile women including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Meryl Streep.
- Read ONE Girls + Women’s website new curator, Chelsea Clinton. who on behalf of the Clinton Foundation launches the No Ceilings report, an analysis of 20 years’ worth of data from more than 190 countries. The report and data visualization both provide a clear picture on the status of gender equality today, showing us where we have made progress and where ceilings still exist.
- Read ONE’s Poverty is Sexist report, a wonderful resource of each of the issues ONE focuses on through the lens of girls and women, providing the challenges, goals, and possible outcomes.
Nicole Melancon is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist, traveler and global volunteer who shares her passion for travel, culture and social good on Thirdeyemom. Nicole is also a world voice editor for World Moms Blog, and a regular contributor to The Elephant Journal and The Huffington Post where she focuses on global health, human rights, motherhood, poverty and the environment. She is an advocate for ONE, The United Nations Foundation Shot@Life Campaign and other non-profit organizations.
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