As we’ve shown over the past few weeks in our “More than Money series”, there are many different sides to extreme poverty besides just a lack of money. This week’s topic goes even further beyond the tangible issues of health and education and focuses on the issue of gender inequality.
If you’re a girl growing up in extreme poverty in a low-income country, you are at a severe disadvantage from your female counterparts in richer countries. The inequality gap is much larger between men and women in these poorer countries, providing very little opportunity for the female population to see their capabilities realised.
As a girl living in extreme poverty, you are more likely to:
• Have a lower education. 53% of the 67 million children missing out on school are girls, and according to the Global Campaign for Education UK, there is not a single country in Africa that sends more than half its girls to secondary school. And despite the knowledge that a child born to a mother who is able to read has a 50% better chance of surviving past the age of 5, two-thirds of the 759 million illiterate adults are still women.
• Marry younger. Since girls living in poverty are more likely to quit school earlier, or get no education at all, they are often married off much younger so they are no longer seen as a burden on their family. This means that currently 1 girl in 7 in developing countries marries before the age of 15 and 38% will marry before they’re 18 (Girl Effect).
• Have children younger, and more of them. Just as girls marry younger because of leaving school earlier, they also begin having children sooner. In developing countries, 14 million girls aged 15-19 give birth each year, meaning one-quarter to one-half of girls in these countries become mothers before the age of 18 (Girl Effect). Furthermore, the majority of African countries have a crude birth rate in the range of 30-40 per 1,000 people compared to 13 in the UK and 14 in the US (World Bank).
• Earn less wages. With lower educational attainment for women in developing countries, it’s obvious that they would make far less money than men who often have more years of education. But even for educated women in the workforce, there are only 117 countries that have equal pay laws and women still earn 10-30% less than their male counterparts (UN Women).
• Acquire a deadly disease like HIV/AIDS. The World Health Organization estimates that 60% of the people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. Women in developing countries are overexposed to the virus because of the occurrence of older men (who have numerous sexual partners) having sexual relations with younger women, the higher prevalence of violence against women and forced prostitution, and gender-related barriers to accessing preventative services, amongst other things.
• Die during pregnancy or childbirth. For girls and women in developing countries, pregnancy and childbirth are currently among the leading causes of death and disability. 99% of the 358,000 women who die of complications during pregnancy or childbirth each year live in developing countries, where only 63% of births are attended by skilled health workers (White Ribbon Alliance).
Is this the fate we want for our daughters and sisters? Of course the answer is no. So why do we allow this to happen to millions of women in the developing world? You can support organisations like the Girl Effect (who made the video below that many of you would have seen before) to help bring justice to these girls and women around the world who deserve an equal chance in life.