In Honor of International Women’s Day: Poverty is Sexist


Now this is a campaign I’m thrilled to get behind…every step of the way. It has to do with girls, equality, equity and fighting extreme poverty to make the world a better place. The name of the campaign: POVERTY IS SEXIST.

According to new analysis published by The ONE Campaign today, International Women’s Day, girls and women are hit hardest by extreme poverty across every area of life, but they also hold the key to change. ONE’s report, “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 an historic opportunity to turn things around.

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

35 high profile women, including academics, politicians, business leaders, actors and musicians, have added their names to ONE’s call for action. They have signed an open letter to Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany and the chair of this year’s G7 summit and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the chair of the African Union Commission – both of whom are key decision makers this year. The letter reads in part:

“If we get this right, we could help lift every girl and woman out of poverty by 2030 – and by doing so we will lift everyone. Get this wrong and extreme poverty, inequality and instability might spread in the most vulnerable regions, impacting all our futures.”

The new Sustainable Development Goals, due to be unveiled in September, will set out a plan to end extreme poverty by 2030. ONE’s report argues we will fail to reach this aim if girls and women aren’t firmly at the centre of the goals. As part of that process, this summer’s G7 and African Union summits, under leadership of Chancellor Merkel and Commission Chair Dlamini-Zuma, could pave the way for new policies and financing that empower women and girls.

ONE has looked at the impact of gender on a range of key sectors, from agriculture to technology, and from education to energy. They have found that dismantling the barriers to girls and women leading productive lives could have a profoundly positive impact across society. For example, giving women farmers the same access to resources as men would drive up productivity and could spare 100–150 million people from a life of chronic hunger. Every year a girl spends in school boosts her future income by 10–20 %.

Empowering women—giving them the power and tools they need to change their own status—allows them to take hold of equal opportunities, break from cultural and social constraints that may be holding them back, and become drivers of poverty reduction.

Over the next several months, ONE.org will provide stories, stats, and actions that will delve further into the issues as seen through the lens of girls and women and I’ll be reporting every step of the way.

But for now, there are steps you can take to help:

1.             Sign and share ONE’s petition calling on world leaders to put girls and women at the heart of the development agenda.

2.             Share ONE’s open letter, signed by more than 35 high-profile women including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Meryl Streep.

3.             Share ONE’s launch blog

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