Poor women are weak. Poor women are lazy. Poor women are unintelligent.
We hear these stereotypes all the time. Even when confronted with statistics that don’t support these labels, shoulders are shrugged and misconceptions continue.
A core purpose of this series, The Truth About Poverty, is to banish common misconceptions about poverty as a whole. We’ve already talked about the what behind poverty misconceptions. This week, we’re talking about the who—specifically women in poverty.
Let’s just clarify—the odds are not in our favor.
1) Women earn only 10% of the world’s income and own about 1% of the world’s property.1
2) Women make up almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the world’s estimated 774 million adults who cannot read or write, and girls make up 57 percent of the world’s 72 million children not attending primary school.2
3) One out of every three women worldwide will be physically, sexually or otherwise abused during her lifetime, with rates reaching 70% in some countries.3
4) Women make up a little over half of the world’s population, but account for over 60% of the world’s hungry.4
As disheartening as the statistics above can be, women who are given even a small opportunity, often make the very most of it. Their influence has the potential to dramatically alter, even stop the negative cycle of poverty itself.
Providing young women with education produces ripple effects in four important areas.
1) Income – “Every year of schooling increases a girl’s individual earning power by 10 to 20 percent, while the return on secondary education is even higher, in the 15 to 25 percent range.”5 This is great news because studies show, “When women control additional income, they spend more of it than men do on food, health, clothing and education for their children.”6
2) Health – If an educated woman has children, the child will be twice as likely to live past the age of five.7 In addition, “If a girl is educated six years or more, as an adult her prenatal care, postnatal care and childbirth survival rates will dramatically and consistently improve.”8
3) Hunger – Providing women farmers with more resources could reduce the number of undernourished people around the world by 100-150 million people.9
4) The Next Generation – Daughters of educated women are twice as likely to go to school themselves. “In many countries each additional year of formal education completed by a mother translates into her children remaining in school for up to an additional one-half year.”10
It’s clear—investing in women is an essential component to breaking the cycle of poverty. So, how can you help provide much needed education for girls? This blog series has equipped you to ask necessary questions about an organization’s investment in breaking the cycle of poverty. This is no exception. Sponsor a child, invest in micro-enterprise, support vocational training programs… and in every area, keep asking good questions.
We want to hear from you—what are other ways you can help women break the cycle of poverty?
1Care, Women’s Empowerment. William J. Clinton Foundation, International Women’s Day.
2USAID, Women in Development: Gender Statistics.
3Women Thrive Worldwide.
4World Food Program, Women and Hunger: 10 Facts.