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Description: Gender Equality

Tamil Nadu, India: Female salt pan workers on an Oxfam-funded project are now earning the same as their male colleagues. Photo: Rajendra Shaw

You’re more likely to be poor if you’re a woman. That’s a fact.

And as a woman – according to research – you’re likely to be doing most of the work.

Discrimination and injustice are major causes of poverty worldwide. And ensuring women and men benefit equally from our work is a vital part of what we do, wherever we do it.

Making a lasting difference depends on it.
Poorer if you’re a woman?

Two big issues seriously affect poor countries’ chances of beating poverty.

One is the amount of aid they get.

The other is the amount of debt they repay.

There are around 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty worldwide. More than two-thirds of them are women and girls.

Statistics like these reflect the bleak reality of life for millions of women in the developing world. Entrenched attitudes deny them their rights, effectively keeping them poorer than men.

As a result, whole communities fall further into poverty.
A world of inequality

Globally, the facts show that women are getting the rawest deal:

* Education – Two-thirds of all children denied school are girls
* Work – Women earn only ten per cent of the world’s income, yet work two-thirds of the world’s working hours
* Welfare – Domestic violence is the single biggest cause of injury and death to women worldwide
* Democracy – women hold only 14 per cent of the world’s parliamentary seats

<b>Poverty and power</b>

Poverty is about lacking opportunities and power, as well as having problems with things like making a decent living. The issues can be connected, of course, but traditional attitudes which limit women’s say over what happens in their lives – and in their wider communities – mean they generally suffer poverty most.

It’s for these reasons that Oxfam involves ‘gender issues’ in every aspect of its work – and is careful to make sure that women and men benefit equally from it.
Turn up the volume

Oxfam supports work around the world helping women to overcome the discrimination they face, and secure their basic rights.

This includes backing efforts to get heard in the places that count.

In Sierra Leone, for example, where women are under-represented in public life, we funded training for local women’s organisations, so they could lobby decision-makers more effectively on issues affecting girls and women. They also looked at how women could get more involved in society.

Several participants later stood as candidates in local elections, and won seats – a great achievement in a country where women struggle to enter politics.

Oxfam has run similar schemes in Uganda, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Working with men and women

Promoting equality is not usually about segregated projects though, and is never about separating women out for privileged treatment.

In fact in Oxfam’s experience, making a lasting difference to poverty, and improving the quality of people’s lives generally, means working with men and women, together. Only in this way will everyone reach their potential.

Working together for mutual respect is at the heart of the ‘We Can’ campaign in South Asia.

In this high-profile, Oxfam-supported, region-wide initiative to end domestic violence against women, thousands of We Can activists – of both sexes – are challenging abuse.

They visit households, persuading couples to find ways to address their differences without violence. Campaigners report that attitudes and behaviour are already beginning to change.
Submitted: 07/31/10 (Edited 07/31/10)
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