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25 shocking facts showing why poverty is sexist
by ONE International
Nowhere on earth do girls and women have the same opportunities as men. But for girls living in extreme poverty, sexism can be a death sentence. This is unacceptable.
If we don’t fight for every girl to have the future she deserves, we’re limiting all of humanity’s potential. We need to demand that those with power and resources put women and girls at the heart of their investments.
Globally, girls are being married off at a rate of 33,000 a day. Girls from poor families are more than three times more likely to marry before 18 as girls from wealthier families.
An estimated 650 million women alive today were married as children. That’s double the population of the United States.
130 million girls are out of school. Half a billion women can’t read.
Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, and Burundi expel pregnant girls from school and deny adolescent mothers the right to study in public schools.
Attacks on schools increased 17-fold between 2000 and 2014, and girls’ schools were targeted three times more often than boys’ schools.
Globally, 340,000 girls and young women are infected with HIV every year. Girls make up three out of four new infections among children aged 10-19 in sub-Saharan Africa. A young woman in sub-Saharan Africa is twice as likely to be infected with HIV than a young man her age.
Globally, only 3 in every 10 adolescent girls and young women aged 15-24 years have comprehensive and accurate knowledge about HIV.
The lack of information on HIV prevention and the power to use this information in sexual relationships, including in the context of marriage, undermines women’s ability to negotiate condom use and engage in safer sex practices. In 2017 29,000 girls aged 15-24 died due to AIDS-related illnesses.
Almost one third (30%) of all women who have been in a relationship have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Globally, 44% of girls aged 15-19 think a husband is entitled to beat his wife.
Globally, girls aged 5–14 spend 550 million hours every day on household chores, 160 million more hours than boys their age spend.
104 countries around the world have laws stopping women from doing certain jobs.
In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend roughly 40 billion hours a year collecting water—the equivalent of a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France.
Over one billion women do not have access to a bank account.
99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
Women and girls make up 96% of those trafficked for sexual exploitation.
Anaemia, a condition strongly connected to iron deficiency and poor nutrition, afflicts twice as many women as men – nearly one in three women and girls worldwide.
The good news:
70% fewer mums could die in childbirth – if all girls had primary education.
66% fewer child marriages could happen globally – if all girls had a secondary education.
US$28 trillion could be generated – if all gender gaps in work and society were closed.

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2.7 billion women worldwide are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men
by Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Sep. 2018
Research suggests that if women could fully participate in the global economy, they would contribute up to 28 trillion dollars to annual global GDP by the year 2025. That’s a 26% increase compared with a business-as-usual scenario – and especially significant in an age of economic crises, and as we work to deliver the 2030 Agenda.
Empowering women unlocks economic potential at every level in society – from the State, through private companies and state-run enterprises, to individual women, their families and their communities.
Gender inequality is damaging to society as a whole. In terms of health, lifespan, participative, representative institutions, there is just simply no contest, no argument. It is clear that addressing discrimination against women can be a very powerful driver of positive outcomes.
But that’s not all. Beyond the “economic” case, the human rights case is also overwhelming.
Seventy years ago, the Universal Declaration proclaimed, "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". And these words, which are very simple, are also – if you pause to think about it – profound. All of us are of equal value. All of us, inherently have a right to freedom – freedom from fear, and from want, but also freedom of choice, in the most fundamental ways, including the freedom to make basic decisions about our lives.
Women''s autonomy, choice and rights lead to greater economic growth: I think that''s clear, since we make up one-half the population of the world. And this is also more sustainable growth, because it is more broadly based and more deeply beneficial.
But women''s empowerment also matters because women matter, and their choices matter. Let us not forget to focus on that. We cannot empower women and girls unless we are respecting, protecting and fulfilling their human rights.
We have seen many remarkable transformations in this respect in recent decades. Fundamental changes in law, in many countries, have empowered women. For millions of women – though not all – there has been an enormous extension of their available choices, and of their effective rights.
It is in no way perfect, and it is not easy: this has been in some ways a painful struggle, and I know that. But women''s rights, everywhere, have been progressing, across the board.
Important obstacles still exist.
According to the World Bank, 2.7 billion women worldwide are legally restricted from having the same choice of jobs as men. In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. Many others impose or endorse discriminatory restrictions on women and girls, including access to property rights, pensions, welfare benefits and loans. And that is strange because it is well-known that women pay back their loans – better than men.
There are examples of good practice we can celebrate. Just last month, Tunisia became the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to announce it would take steps to ensure full gender equality in inheritance. The Tunisian government also announced its intention to amend legislation to ease access to health insurance and pensions by agricultural workers, most of which are women. Once these plans are enacted, they will empower many Tunisian women – and all of society.
Confronting obstacles to women’s economic empowerment means making reforms across an enormous range of issues. We need more work to guarantee women’s and adolescent girls’ right to health, including access to sexual and reproductive health information and services. Women’s economic potential is significantly reduced by unintended pregnancies, sexual and reproductive ill-health, and limited access to family planning. Further exclusion is driven by the ongoing stigma around menstruation, breast-feeding and the menopause.
It should be clear that unless we are able to improve family planning, eliminate preventable maternal mortality, ensure access to contraception, avoid child marriages and other important steps, we will be unable to achieve, not only SDG 5 -- gender equality and empowerment for all women and girls – but also the 2030 Agenda overall.
Let me take another example. Current economic models do not take into account unpaid care and domestic work – even though the formally defined economy cannot be sustained without that work. To facilitate women’s participation in the formal economy, there needs to be a more balanced and equal share of unpaid domestic and care responsibilities. Programs such as parental leave and flexible work or childcare programmes are key.
But to effect these changes, we also need deep shifts in the rigidly conceived notions of masculinity and feminity, which impede women’s full participation in school, in neighbourhoods, in politics, across society and at home.
We need more dialogue around the whole range of issues that impact women’s rights and autonomy. We need strong policies, which take into account the lived reality of women and girls, and we need to involve women and girls – particularly from marginalized and excluded groups – in these conversations.
Unfortunately, what we are seeing in many countries today is strong resistance to important elements of the women’s rights agenda. In several States there have been attempts to pass laws or enact policy changes aimed at controlling, or limiting, women’s freedom to make choices about their lives.
As ever, those who pay the heaviest cost for these policies are the most marginalized women and girls.
The struggle for the equality, dignity and rights for women – as for everyone – needs to be constant and active. It needs to be front and centre of everything we do. It needs to be principled, it needs to be visible, and it needs to be unsparing.
Not only because women’s empowerment is a key, core goal for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – since it delivers, powerfully, both in development, and in development which is sustainable.
Not only because women’s empowerment drives economic growth, and many other benefits for all of society.
But because this is what "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights" means. It means everyone.
Women''s rights are intrinsic to human rights. And the absence – the refusal of women''s empowerment and women''s human rights – undercuts the choice and the freedom of millions of human beings. This is one of the most fundamental injustices of our time.

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