Gender equality and women’s empowerment
“Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It is everyone’s responsibility.”
– UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
International Women’s Day (2014)
In many countries, women and girls are unable to realise some of their basic human rights. These include the right to an education, healthcare and employment, all of which affects their ability to make choices for their future.That’s why CARE invests in what we see as the greatest source of untapped human potential in the world – women and girls, who create lasting change when they have the opportunity to:
- gain an education
- support themselves and their families with adequate food and nutrition
- receive vital health and medical support
- access clean water and sanitation facilities
- participate in helping their communities to rebuild in the face of disasters
Decades of poverty-fighting work, research, analysis and project implementation have demonstrated that poverty and women’s disempowerment go hand-in-hand.
Working with women and girls makes good investment sense. Evidence shows that when one woman escapes poverty, she’ll bring four other people with her.
Addressing a lifetime of discrimination
It is a confronting reality that women and girls make up the vast majority of the world’s poorest – those living on less than $1.25 per day.
Women account for so many of the world’s poor because the social expectations which exist in almost every society – including here in Australia – limit their choices. The reality is that in many countries, from the moment a baby girl is born, she is likely to face a life of disadvantage and discrimination simply because of her gender.
The reality for a girl – across all life-stages:
As a baby, if the mother is malnourished, she may also be and this could have long-term effects on her health, or she may die. It is common for boys to receive more and far better quality food than girls, and poor families are more likely to spend their limited money on healthcare for their sons rather than their daughters.
As a girl, she might be expected to find food, firewood and water along with caring for her siblings and farming. If her family needs her at home this will limit her education, her chance to learn new skills to help her earn an income in the future and make choices about the way she lives her life.
As a teen, she may become a child bride to lessen the food burden on her family or to earn a bride price. Child marriage can have a devastating impact on a girl’s life, often denying her basic rights to health, education and opportunity.
As a woman, she will play a critical role in crop production but will have limited say in decisions about farming, agriculture and family finances. Her survival may be completely dependent on her husband’s ability and willingness to take care of her.
As a mother, she may not have the power to decide if or when she falls pregnant, how many children she has, or how far apart she has them.
As an older woman, she is more likely to have had a lifetime of disadvantage. Poor education, inadequate nutrition and lack of access to services and the labour market in earlier life often leave women with poor health and few resources in old age.
Learn more by reading the case study below and introducing some of the individuals CARE works with to your class.
What about men and boys?
Men and boys are a critical part of women’s empowerment. From brothers and fathers, to teachers and community leaders, it is essential to work with men and boys to break down gender stereotypes and challenge social norms.
Our programs focus on women, girls, men and boys, with the understanding that gender equality benefits everyone in the community.
For example, apart from helping them reach their full potential, educating girls has continued benefits because an educated woman is:
- far more likely to share resources with her family, village or community
- less likely to die in childbirth
- more likely to have healthy babies
- more likely to send her children to school, and
- better able to protect her children and herself from HIV and AIDS, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
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