The Face of Poverty is Female

When thinking about issues regarding poverty and issues regarding women, we do not typically think about them coinciding with each other. Women in poverty, however, is an extremely important economic issue that needs attention, and data from the International Labour Organization supports this:

Percent of men below poverty line Percent of women below poverty line
African American 22.3 % 22.6 %
Hispanic 19.6% 23.6%
Asian 9.7% 10.7%
White 9.4%                            11.6%

It is more difficult for women to find a job when it historically is also their duty to look after children and keep a household running properly.

Particularly in developing countries, there is simply a lack of opportunity for a woman to earn a living wage to support herself and her family. This starts with education. Global literacy statistics in 1990 reveal that for every 74 literate women, there were 100 literate men. A similar trend is shown throughout schooling as well. Internationally, 77 million girls are not enrolled in school, compared to the 52 million boys. This lack of education for young girls leaves them stuck in poverty with little opportunity to break themselves out.

At The United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995, a few objectives were identified in an effort to ensure equal rights and equal opportunity for women. These strategic efforts included:

1. Reviewing, adopting and maintaining macroeconomic policies and developing strategies that address the needs and efforts of women in poverty
2. Revising laws and administrative practices to ensure women’s equal rights and access to economic resources
3. Providing women with access to savings and credit mechanisms and institutions
4. Developing gender-based methodologies and conducting research to address the feminization of poverty.

Because these issues affect every country globally, although some not as severely as others, something needs to be done to fix the problem. We need an affirmative plan that will help better integrate women into the economy. New policies must be put into effect to strengthen young women’s educational backgrounds, especially in developing countries which will in turn, open the door to many more employment opportunities. The United Nations’ should also intervene in countries where there is a legal limit on a woman’s ability to work.. According to “Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment,” around 90% of 143 economies observed in a study had at least one legal difference restricting women’s economic opportunities. By fixing these issues which contribute to impoverishment of women we can increase education for women, stimulate economic growth and bring poverty rates down.

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