Poverty is Sexist: It’s time to start talking about it

This blog was written by Emily Huie, ONE’s Policy Officer for Inclusive Growth.

Did you know that 93% of girls who are out of school in Mali will never attend? Or that a woman in Niger has a 1 in 20 chance of dying in childbirth in her lifetime? Or that when women participate in the workforce, they will on average earn 10 to 30% less than their male colleagues? These statistics are shocking. And frankly it is unacceptable that, in 2016, women around the world continue to have limited access to education, healthcare, and opportunities to improve their lot in life.

Women walk back to the Umoja village after collecting water from a nearby river, Samburu, Kenya on February 19, 2015.

Women walk back to the Umoja village after collecting water from a nearby river, Samburu, Kenya on February 19, 2015.

In honour of International Women’s Day, ONE is releasing its second Poverty is Sexist report. Why? Because as we talk about the importance of gender equality around the world, we cannot leave women in the developing world out of the conversation.

We know that poverty and gender equality go hand in hand; women born in poor countries are significantly worse off than their counterparts in richer countries, and in every sphere they are hit harder by poverty than men. But we also know that investments targeted towards girls and women pay dividends and lift everyone out of poverty more quickly.

A mother and child in Kenya.

A mother and child in Kenya.

This year in our report, we take a closer look at health and nutrition for a couple of reasons: First, because ensuring that women have access to proper nutrition and healthcare is essential for their overall wellbeing and thriving; and secondly, because there are two key moments that must be capitalised on this year to increase funding for global nutrition and health programs.

The importance of nutrition for human, social, and economic development cannot be overstated. Good nutrition is critical during the first years of a child’s life, as it has profound impacts on both physical and mental development. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 45% of all deaths in children under 5 years of age. In August, the Nutrition for Growth II summit is taking place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and brings with it the opportunity to raise historic funds new and additional funds for global nutrition programs. Governments from around the world must step up and help fill the gap in funding for these lifesaving programs.

In Ghana, (from left) Veronica Gomez, a GHS breastfeeding program manager; 3-month-old Treasure Abbam; and mother Felicia Owodoo.

In Ghana, (from left) Veronica Gomez, a GHS breastfeeding program manager; 3-month-old Treasure Abbam; and mother Felicia Owodoo.

99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries. Every day around the world, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects women and girls; girls account for 74% of all new HIV infections among adolescents in Africa. And when it comes to malaria, around 20% of all still-births in sub-Saharan Africa are associated with a woman contracting malaria during pregnancy. The Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is holding a three-year replenishment fund this year, and needs to raise $13 billion to continue providing support for lifesaving programs that address health risks such as these. The Global Fund is the single largest funder of the fight against TB and malaria, and has built into its strategy a priority for targeting investments in programs that benefit girls and women.

Last year, governments came together at the UN and agreed upon a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which placed women and girls at the heart of the world’s development agenda. Agreeing to the SDGs was the first step; this year, leaders must start making good on these promises and putting real money behind them.

A baby in Kenya receives the polio vaccine.

A baby in Kenya receives the polio vaccine.

We all bear some responsibility for the state of the world, and making it a better place for EVERYONE. That is why, in our report, we included a list of 10 asks that includes governments, civil society, and the international community. 2016 can’t be “business as usual;” it must be the year that we all step up to do our part in empowering women and ending extreme poverty.

Add your voice to those of Sheryl Sandberg, Ariana Huffington, Danai Gurira, and Bono by signing our open letter to world leaders demanding that International Women’s Day be about advancing women and girls everywhere—because we can’t end extreme poverty if we don’t empower women and girls in the poorest countries.

Add your name to our open letter to tell the world that #PovertyIsSexist.