Research shows investing in women’s education will reduce global hunger
Posted Mar 08 2011 12:00am
Aid agency issues call to action on International Women’s Day
NEW YORK (March 7, 2011)—Concern* Worldwide, the international humanitarian organization, marks International Women’s Day March 8 with call to action for international governments, civil society and men and women everywhere to addressgender inequality and increase the opportunities of girls and women significantly.
Analysis (Global Hunger Index, “The Challenge of Hunger: Focus on the Financial Crisis & Gender Equality,” 2009) by Concern and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)suggests that improving girls ‘and women’s educational attainment, economic participation, health status and representation and influence at a political level will actually reduce hunger, showing that investments in greater equality have multiple indirect benefits.
Yet, according to the latest UN estimates, 69 million children worldwide are not enrolled primary school and 54 percent of these are girls. Girls are also more likely than boys to stop attending school before they complete primary education and have a significantly smaller chance of progressing to secondary school in many parts of the world because of poverty, attitudes and beliefs about the status of girls relative to boys, abuse in schools and discrimination.
The link between reduced opportunities, inequality and extreme poverty and hunger has been recognized at the highest level. According to the UN, nearly one billion people worldwide endure hunger every day.
The research by Concern and the International Food Policy Research Institute has shown that equalizing women’s status would reduce the number of malnourished children by 13.4 million in South Asia and by 1.7 million in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Good intentions are not enough to address inequalities that persist,” said Angela O’Neill, Concern’s regional director for southern Africa. “Concrete steps for affirmative action in education and public life, as well as investments targeted at the health, well-being and empowerment of women are needed.”
Progress has been made. The area where the most change has happened is the participation of women in the economic sphere, both within nations and households. While women have always engaged in productive work, this work has often gone unpaid and unnoticed—but now, globally, the share of women in paid employment outside the agricultural sector has continued to increase slowly and reached 41 per cent by 2008.
But despite a change in the workplace that sees more women coming into paid employment, a great gap remains: women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours and they produce more than half the world’s food—yet they only earn 10 percent of all the world’s income.
The economic cost of failing to educate girls to the same standard as boys is $92B each year to 65 low and middle income countries. This is only some 10 percent less than the $103B annual overseas development aid budget of the developed world—a striking reality, particularly at a time of widespread budget cuts.
“It is crucial to give voice to the aspirations of women everywhere through engaging with women’s movements and organizations to support their initiatives and ensure that the world’s women, no matter where they live, can influence the decisions that affect their lives,” O’Neill said.
In 25 of the world’s poorest countries, Concern supplies marginalized women farmers with seeds, tools and agricultural training; gives poor women access to affordable credit and small business loans through our microfinance programs; offers skills and literacy training to adult women; and improves access to basic, quality education for girls. All these initiatives aim to give women greater power and influence in their societies and communities.
Worldwide, through its programs in livelihoods, HIV and AIDS, health, and education, Concern in the past year directly benefitted more than 5.1 million women and girls.
*** Concern works in 25 of the world’s poorest countries, including 17 sub-Saharan African nations, and reaches some 25 million people. The organization’s goal is the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty and the reduction of suffering. The organization’s programs focus on emergency relief and long-term development work in the areas of health, HIV and AIDS, livelihoods and education.***