Magazine article New African

Empowering African Women: Is Poverty Sexist?

Magazine article New African

Empowering African Women: Is Poverty Sexist?

Article excerpt

There is still almost half a year to go to address the African Union Summit 2015 theme, the "Year of Women's Empowerment and Development towards Agenda 2063", but as Dr Sipho Moyo, Africa Executive Director at the One Campaign, contends, poverty is sexist and it won't be overcome unless the global injustice of gender inequality is dealt with once and for all.

On International Women's Day this year, our organisation published a policy report that revealed the scale of the gender gap in the world's poorest countries. The report, titled Poverty is Sexist: Why Girls and Women Must be at the Heart of the Fight to End Extreme Poverty, is a sobering reflection on the injustice of a world in which, whether you live or die depends on an accident of geography--on where you were born.

It cannot be right that a woman in Africa is 100 times more likely to die bringing a new life into the world than a woman in Europe. And beyond maternal mortality, the numbers all around are sobering.

Almost 40,000 girls under the age of 18 become child brides every day, with a greater chance of suffering abuse from their husbands.

Only a little over 20% of poor rural girls in Africa complete primary education and fewer than 10% finish lower secondary school. Of adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, 58% are women.

The challenges and injustices that girls and women in the developing world face are many--across all aspects of life--and include structural, social, economic and political barriers. In Africa, far more than anywhere else, women are disproportionately affected by corruption because of reduced access to resources, lower participation in governance and weaker protection of their rights.

For some, this may sound like a bit of old news but in Africa, where the gender gap between male and female is greatest, a girl is more likely to be denied an education than a boy. As a woman, you do not have the same rights to credit or land as a man.

So, simply put, poverty is sexist and it won't be overcome unless we start to deal with the global injustice of gender inequality. While the structural, social, political and economic barriers women face in the developing world are staggering, the year 2015 is an amazing opportunity to change that.

New Global Goals

In September at the UN, the new Global Goals will be agreed which will set the development agenda for the next 15 years. To end poverty by 2030, these goals must put girls and women at the heart of the new agenda and address all aspects of women's rights and economic empowerment.

The African Union has declared 2015 the Year of Women's Empowerment. This is also an opportunity to seize and promote the advancement of humankind by insisting on policy interventions by our African governments that promote and ensure equal opportunities for women and girls. African leaders were implored to come out of the June Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, with a clear set of policy reforms and budget commitments in their declarations, to include:

* Agricultural development and hunger: Committing to deliver tailored agricultural training to women, increase their access to productive inputs, and advance equal land tenure rights for all by breaking through legal and cultural challenges;

* Health: Improve the quantity and quality of health spending in line with the Abuja commitment, prioritise budget space for the salaries and retention of more health workers at all levels as one key element of strengthening health systems and improving access to health services for women;

* Financial and legal empowerment: Increase domestic investment in girls and women, ensuring that all budgeting and planning processes are gender-sensitive, and ensure access to justice for girls and women;

* Transparency: Improve transparency of natural resource management, particularly through making information on payments from extractives companies publicly accessible and available to citizens and civil society, including communities living near to extractive plants. …

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