When we talk about poverty, the surface-level discussion involves topics like low income as well as the lack of job opportunities for those who didn’t finish school. But have you ever thought of how it’s interconnected with gender inequality?
According to UN Women, one of the root causes of impoverishment in multiple countries is gender discrimination. “While both men and women suffer in poverty, gender discrimination means that women have far fewer resources to cope. They are likely to be the last to eat, the ones least likely to access healthcare, and routinely trapped in time-consuming, unpaid domestic tasks. They have more limited options to work or build businesses,” the report stated.
In 2013, American Progress cited that women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poor; two-thirds make up the global illiterate population; and most of them suffer from the gender pay gap.
According to UN Women’s infograph showing how poverty affects women globally, the life expectancy in low-income countries is 63.1 years, a 19-year difference from high-income countries (82 years). It also shows that over 1.3 billion women don’t have an account at a formal financial institution, and primary school-aged children from rural areas are two times as likely to be out of school.
As of this year, 21.6 percent of Filipino families live below the national poverty line—the most affected being Filipino women. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) noted that more than 10 million Filipino women still live in poverty. The most pressing concern affecting them is maternal mortality and access to reproductive healthcare services, especially for rural and indigenous women.
Although the Philippines is considered one of the best in gender equality worldwide,the International Labor Organization (ILO) reported that only 45.9 percent of working age women are able to access decent employment. Meanwhile, 72.6 percent of men have access to such opportunities.
If a woman does find a job, they are paid less. In the Philippines’ agricultural sector, for example, UNDP found that men are paid 20 percent higher. Many women living in poverty have also turned to illegal prostitution to provide for their families.
Think about it: How can we eradicate poverty in our country and across the globe if women are given low priority in terms of getting access to jobs, education, and healthcare? How can they work if their health and safety are at risk?
This conversation isn’t just limited to the cisgendered female population. The discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community can also contribute to global poverty. Countries like the US lack laws protecting the LGBTQ+ people from being fired from their jobs because of their SOGIE.
So, how can the world level the playing field for all individuals in hopes of reducing poverty? The answer is easier said than done: Giving them equal opportunities and allowing women, especially those living below the poverty line, to find means to earn and meet their needs.
A 2015 McKinsey Global Institute report found that advancing women’s equality could add as much as $28 trillion (26 percent) to the global annual GDP by 2025. One solution it suggested was to improve gender parity in the world. UNDP-Philippines also stated the importance of empowering girls and women to boost economic growth in our country.
As a publication that tackles feminism, it’s important for our readers to understand that it’s not “women first” or “women only.” Feminism pertains to giving everyone equal opportunity in a society ruled by oppressive patriarchal values. But one should also remember that equality shouldn’t exist in a bubble of privilege and consider how intersectionality can help minorities everywhere.
The world has a long way to go before it can eradicate poverty. But if empowering women and fighting for their right to equality is an important step forward to doing so, then we should all take it.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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