Gender Equality to End Poverty

Rosa G. Lizarde, Global Coordinator, Feminist Task Force-GCAP wrote the following  ” Yesterday at the Bonn Advancing the Post 2015 Development Agenda Conference, we had a great session on Gender and Poverty. We took the points raised and developed a statement which will be presented at the Gallery of Statement sessions today with all the other summaries for endorsement from those here. Since some of you may be tuning in online, we are providing the option to sign on as well as the feminist statement of the overall conference.”  Here is the text of the statement.  On behalf of us all I have signed on to the statement.    What do you think about this statement?


While the UN High Level Panel on Post 2015 has declared that we can end poverty in our lifetime, it is clear that women across the globe are becoming increasingly impoverished and if we do not transform the current political, cultural and economic systems by placing women at the heart of development, we will not be able to achieve an end to poverty.
If the members of the panel are serious about eradicating poverty and inequality, they will consider the following points as they draft recommendations to the UN Secretary-General:
·       Combatting all forms of gender-based violence is essential to end poverty.  Violence against women (VAW) is a structural driver of the increasing feminization of poverty. VAW has been identified as the #1 priority in the e-discussion on Gender Equality that was held as part of the Global Thematic Discussion on Inequalities.  The HLP should prioritize ending violence against women and its intersection with increasing poverty.
·       Stemming and reversing the feminization of poverty and the structural drivers of women’s poverty and inequality, including lack of access to land ownership and property, among others, should be prioritized by the HLP.
·       Caste, Class and Ethnicity perpetuate poverty as social and cultural norms are discriminatory and have a devastating effect on a women’s livelihood. 
·       Both formal and non-formal education has the power to level the playing field for women. Literacy and equality of access for women and girls to quality education should remain relevant targets for post-2015 education and development goals. 
·        The impact of climate change has a devastating effect on women, their families and communities. Worsening natural disasters due to climate change has deepened povety for women and contributes to generational poverty. The HLP must emphasize the link between climate change, worsening natural disasters and women living in poverty.
·        Land grabbing and the ‘‘extractives development model,‘‘ the nexus of government sanctioned mining and other extractives industries, is an assault on the dignity and soveriegnty of women, their families and their communities. The HLP must bring attention to the impact of these unsustainable methods and their devastating effect on perpetuating poverty for women.
·        Current models of measuring economic activity do not take into account unremunerated work, such as the care economy and social reproduction.  The HLP should ensure in new economic measures.
·        Full employment and decent work, and ensuring universal and affordable access to social protection is a pillar for achieving women’s economic independence.
·        Moreover, we need a new development paradigm that works for women, includes women, particularly the voices of socially-excluded, disenfranchised and marginalized women, as part of the solutions and in the decision-making.

A Localized Approach to Ending the Global Problem of Gender Based Violence by Victoria Ashley

Victoria Ashley, a current Good Shepherd Volunteer in the New York Province  writes… “During the second week of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women I attended a forum held to discuss the best approach for addressing the global issue of gender based violence (GBV), specifically in the poverty stricken country of Nepal.

The panelist brought up some interesting facts about Nepal, which gave me a better idea of the country’s political and social state. I learned that currently Nepal’s poverty rates rank 157th out of 187 countries, and has been and continues to face high levels of illiteracy rates (a major factor shown to contribute to gender based violence). These statistics are partially due to the displacement of citizens after the civil war ending in 2006, and lack of true governance for the people. I also learned that many of the cultural traditions and practices of Nepal are rooted in their patriarchal caste system, which still remains a powerful influence on Nepalese society to this day.

Dr. Mary Crawford, a Professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, was one of the panelists leading the discussion on gender based violence in Nepal. She raised the contemporary issue of sex trafficking in this war torn country. Based on her own research and work in Nepal, Dr. Crawford witnessed the extent of gender discrimination and limitations placed on Nepalese women. From this research she wrote the book; Sex Trafficking in South Asia: Telling Maya’s Story, which describes the social construction of trafficking and its destructive and limiting effects on women and girls within the society. To demonstrate the severity of discrimination that is faced by women, Dr. Crawford quoted a Nepal proverb which states; “Educating your daughter is like watering another man’s garden.” I thought that this raised many issues, one being that in Nepal the son’s education is valued above the daughters and secondly, the daughter’s education is not a high priority for those holding power in Nepal.  This proverb demonstrated how deeply embedded these problems are within the Nepalese society, and after hearing this it became easier to understand why Nepal currently ranks 113th out of 144th on the UN’s gender equality index.

Dr. Crawford explained that since GBV has been a low priority for the government of Nepal, NGO’s have taken the initiative, leading campaigns to raise awareness and provide support services. However, Dr. Crawford brought up some of the problems that have resulted from these initiatives. In an effort to raise awareness to the issue of sex trafficking, NGO’s unintentionally scared women into staying home from school, in fear of leaving the safety of their own homes. Issues of violations of privacy were also occurring after certain NGO’s inadvertently disclosed private information concerning victims. In trying to provide care and prevent further harm some efforts have only made matters worse for Nepalese women. Noting this in her research, Dr. Crawford concluded that in to avoid these types of problems and successfully deal with the issue of GBV, a localized approach must be taken with attention to individual cases.

Interestingly enough, Dr. Crawford suggested more training and support for NGO staff, insuring greater and professional expertise for in every case. In some cases staff members have received less than 6 months of training. She also pointed out that education is key to intervention, along with providing alternatives to former life styles for women trying to support themselves. She suggested income-generating programs would be an important resource that would provide other options for these women, and a chance to leave their former life styles for good.

After getting a better idea of the bigger picture and understanding the extent of which GBV permeates the Nepalese culture I could really see the importance of the points Dr. Crawford raised. Taking a localized approach to dealing with problems within a society is imperative to creating lasting change. Progress will only come with internal changes gradually made over time, rather than sweeping legislative agenda and support programs that only tackle one aspect of the problem. By getting a better understanding of the culture and the way that it influences women’s lives is the only way to offer unique, supportive services for specific populations. What works well in Nepal may not in Thailand, and vice versa.  Dr. Crawford’s discussion was extremely informative and I believe that that raises an important point as well, and I’ll end with this; listening to the voices that offer first-hand accounts is crucial to ending gender based violence. These voices bring insights and perspectives that should be taken back to the table where plans are made and ideas shared, only through that sharing will we continue to connect on a global level and successfully make an impact on gender based violence. “