To End Extreme Poverty, Target Women and Girls, Report Urges

To achieve the United Nations' goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals must specifically target women and girls, a report from the ONE campaign argues.

According to the report, Poverty Is Sexist: Why Girls and Women Must Be at the Heart of the Fight Against Extreme Poverty (32 pages, PDF), extreme poverty disproportionately affects women and girls in the developing world, many of whom face structural, social, economic, and political barriers to improving their lives that men — and women in wealthier countries — experience to a far lesser degree. "Poverty and gender inequality go hand-in-hand," the report's authors write, and addressing gender gaps in poor countries is not only a moral imperative but also a practical one, given the growing body of evidence which supports the idea that targeting investments in girls and women can help lift entire families and communities out of poverty. Providing female farmers with the same access to productive resources as male farmers, for example, could reduce the number of people suffering chronic hunger by as many as a hundred and fifty million, while ensuring that all children — including girls — in low-income countries leave school with basic reading skills could reduce extreme poverty by as much as 12 percent.

To unleash their social, political, and economic potential, the report calls on the international community to put women and girls at the center of the global development agenda and to better target investments aimed at dismantling the barriers that keep them in poverty. Recommendations for the UN's new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — to be adopted in September — include tailoring agricultural training and research to women's needs and strengthening women's land tenure rights; working to eliminate preventable maternal and child deaths; providing universal access to sustainable, affordable, and reliable energy services; improving educational infrastructure so that girls are able to finish school; ensuring equal access to job training, financial services, and legal protection; and boosting women's access to technology and digital literacy.

In a social media campaign launched in conjunction with the release of the report, ONE calls on German chancellor Angela Merkel and African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who will convene the G7 Summit in June and the African Union Summit in July, to secure the agreements, financing, and momentum necessary to place the empowerment of women and girls at the heart of the new SDGs. "If we get this right, we could help lift every girl and woman out of poverty by 2030 — and by doing so we will lift everyone," a letter signed by female activists, artists, and business leaders reads. "Get this wrong and extreme poverty, inequality, and instability might spread in the most vulnerable regions, impacting all our futures."