Of the 960 million illiterate people in the world, two-thirds are women. Startling? Read on. And in well-functioning economies, we know that the education level often has a direct positive correlation with the economic enrichment of one’s household and professional prospects. To compound that fact, women make up 70% of the world labour but only earn 10% of the world’s income. Meaning women’s labour contribution is uncompensated especially in the rural areas in being caretakers of the sick and elderly, farmers and more. This leads to a greater poverty rate, it slows down economic growth and lowers the standard of living. As if that weren’t enough, women make 30-50% less than men worldwide. With these facts laid out, it is no wonder this article will be tailored toward the female population in addressing ways in which to factor gender into the agenda of poverty alleviation.
What does the future hold for the girl child living in poverty?
A girl living in poverty is statistically likely, to be married off early, lack the funds/resources to continue her education, have children at an early age and to continue the cycle of poverty. The health risks of her children are also heightened not only because her education level is likely low due to poverty, but she would also lack the funds to seek proper treatment and care to aid in preserving the health and the lives of her children. It is a known fact that women and girls invest 90% of their earned income into their families and communities, and for this reason alone women and girls should be empowered economically if a nation is to be brought out of poverty and any other form of economic shortfall.
Unfortunately, pervasive underlying factors, such as inadequate structural conditions, including insufficient policy framework to integrate gender into poverty alleviation efforts and gender norms and discriminatory social norms keep many women from contributing to the household income and national GDP as agents for economic progress.
How can women be empowered to break the cycle of poverty?
One of the greatest tragedies of the 21st century is the gender pay parity. In this time in human development it makes absolutely no sense for women to be making a fraction of what men make given the ever-changing household models and unique circumstances of building a home and raising children. Economic empowerment for women through policy insists on equal pay between men and women and also closing the employment participation gap between men and women is crucial to bring women out of vicious cycle of poverty. I repeat, increasing women’s percentage share of the world’s income, and closing gender pay parity will not only substantially bring nations out of economic slumps but also drive sustainable growth and economic power for generations to come.
Service delivery providing women with access to property, assets, and financial services lead to their social protection. Secondly, increasing women and girls’ education, and providing technology tools for digitization skill building and internet access leads to women and girls moving out of poverty at vast rates. Currently, women are more likely than men to report lack of skills as a barrier to Internet use. A survey of women in developing countries found that of women using the internet 75 percent use the Internet to further their education which sustains the wealth-building efforts and prevents future generations from regressing back to poverty.
Speaking of tech, in the age of technology, it is almost impossible to be upwardly mobile without a good grasp on tech skills even at the most basic level. When rural and urban women are provided with technology access and computer skill training, studies show that this increase in internet connectivity leads to a $21 return on investment for every dollar spent on poverty alleviation efforts and giving internet access to women could contribute between $13-18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.
When women have access to formal financial institutions and avenues to join saving mechanisms like cooperative savings groups and organized sectors they utilize the network for family enrichment. For example, the United Capital Wealth for Women Fund is a great new avenue tailored specifically for women to prevent poverty and make women economically independent.
As mentioned earlier, women do much of the unpaid labor that makes the world go ‘round and by providing a wider variety of occupations and enterprises beyond low-productivity activities and informal sectors, unpaid women can become lucrative service providers and business- owners while enhancing the skills of which they are already accustomed.
Women farmers can be assisted out of poverty by providing them with seed capital, access to inputs, actual seeds, credit facilities and extension services which will also encourage more women participation in the agricultural labour force. The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, which spearheads initiatives that address these needs throughout Lagos state, equip women with early economic empowerment tools to help them start businesses and there are free skills training courses at their Skill Acquisition Centres also offered by the Ministry. Access to land and credit for the ability of women farmers and entrepreneurs to invest, operate to scale, and benefit from new economic opportunities is also incredibly necessary to lift agric-skilled women out of poverty.
Poverty affects the young, the old, the healthy, and the frail and empowering women to break the cycle of poverty is the number one way out.
For more information on The Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs & Poverty Alleviation and to find your nearest Skill Acquisition Centres in Lagos for free skill training courses and other poverty alleviation tools visit http://wapa.lagosstate.gov.ng/