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Polycrises are pushing more women into poverty
by Commission on the Status of Women, agencies
9:01am 30th Jan, 2024
On International Women’s Day, UN Women calls for the world to “Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress” as the best way to accelerate economic growth and build more prosperous, equitable societies.
This is particularly urgent when war and crisis are eroding the achievements of decades of investments in gender equality. From the Middle East to Haiti, Sudan, Myanmar, Ukraine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, women pay the biggest price for conflicts that are not of their making. The need for peace has never been more urgent.
Climate change is accelerating persistent poverty gaps. As competition for scarce resources intensifies, livelihoods are threatened, societies become more polarized, and women bear an increasingly heavy burden:
1 in every 10 women in the world lives in extreme poverty. The number of women and girls living in conflict-affected areas doubled since 2017, now, more than 614 million women and girls live in conflict-affected areas. In conflict areas, women are 7.7 times more likely to live in extreme poverty.
Climate change is set to leave 236 million more women and girls hungry by 2030, twice as many as men (131 million). At prime working age, only 61 per cent of women are in the labour force versus 90 per cent of men.
We cannot continue to miss out on the gender-equality dividend. More than 100 million women and girls could be lifted out of poverty if governments prioritized education and family planning, fair and equal wages, and expanded social benefits.
Almost 300 million jobs could be created by 2035 through investments in care services, such as provision of daycare and elderly care. And closing gender employment gaps could boost gross domestic product per capita by 20 per cent across all regions.
The current reality is far from this. Programmes dedicated to gender equality represent only 4 per cent of official development assistance. An additional USD 360 billion in developing countries is needed per year to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment. This is less than one fifth of the USD 2.2 trillion spent globally on military expenditure in 2022, for example.
The areas needing investment are clear and understood. First and foremost there must be an investment in peace. Beyond this, the investments needed include: laws and policies that advance the rights of women and girls; transformation of social norms that pose barriers to gender equality; guaranteeing women’s access to land, property, health care, education, and decent work; and financing women’s groups networks at all levels.
UN Women is also calling on Member States at the Commission on the Status of Women, starting in New York on 11 March 2024, to back up their commitments on gender equality with resources.
The world’s leaders have this opportunity to develop concrete and progressive agreed conclusions that reflect the crucial need for financing gender equality, women’s empowerment, and women´s organizations. They must seize it for the sake of equality, our planet, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Polycrises are pushing more Women into Poverty, by Jessica Henn, Channe Lindstrom Oguzhan and Angie Elizabeth Carrion Cueva. (IPS)
Let’s call her Anita. Four years ago, her life took an unexpected turn when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted everything she knew. As businesses closed and economic uncertainty loomed, Anita, like countless others, found herself forced out of work. Providing for her three young children became a daily struggle, prompting her to seek informal work as a subsistence agricultural worker to ease the financial burden.
Just as Anita began to rebuild her life, hoping for a semblance of normalcy, climate change left Anita’s village facing the worst drought in decades, destroying the crops on which they survived. With no social protection for informal workers like Anita, the aftermath left her grappling with the devastation, both emotional and economic.
Yet, through it all, Antia’s resilience shone bright. She sought opportunities, determined to shield her children from the harsh realities they faced.
However, the challenges did not cease. Against a backdrop of rising geopolitical tensions and global climate shocks, food prices began to soar. Anita, despite her tenacity, found it increasingly difficult to put food on the table for her children. In a difficult situation, Anita reached out for assistance, seeking a loan to navigate the financial hurdles.
Yet, discriminatory legal frameworks and gender norms prevented Anita from accessing the financial lifeline she desperately needed, pushing her further into poverty.
Anita’s story is not an isolated case. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 165 million people globally have fallen (back) into poverty, with an additional 75 million more people living in extreme poverty, on less than USD $2.15 a day. It is estimated that at least 8 per cent of the world’s female population (342.4 million women and girls) will live on less than $2.15 a day by 2030 if current trends continue.
In the Asia-Pacific region, existing gender poverty gaps have widened, particularly in South Asia which is forecast to have 129 women in the 25-34 age group living in poverty for every 100 men by 2030, rising from 118 women to every 100 men in 2021.
Yet, while recent polycrises have reversed hard-won gains towards poverty eradication, strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective can get us back on track to eradicate extreme poverty and close the growing gender poverty gap.
150 million women and girls globally could be lifted out of poverty by 2030 with increased spending on social protection, investments in the green economy, better infrastructure and education.
Strengthened gender-sensitive public institutions play a pivotal role promoting gender equality in all spheres, supported by investments in women’s leadership and political participation, alongside institutional initiatives aimed at overcoming biases and stereotypes.
For many women at the Asia-Pacific Regional Consultation on the 68th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68), the call to action rang loud and clear.
Accelerate the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective.
* Jessica Henn, Channe Lindstrom Oguzhan and Angie Elizabeth Carrion Cueva work with the Social Development Division, UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific:
* Oct. 23, UN Women Expert Group report for the 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women: Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective:

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