For Christian Aid, unequal distribution of power and unfair abuses of power are at the heart of poverty. And the greatest, most pervasive inequality in the world is that between women and men.
We cannot stamp out poverty without addressing the fundamental inequality between the sexes.
‘70% of the world’s poor are women.’
‘Women perform 66% of the world’s work yet earn only 10% of the income.’
‘Women own only 1% of the world’s property.’
‘Women make up 64% of the world’s illiterate.’
‘Less than 20% of the world’s parliamentarians are female.’
Christian Aid is going to the root causes of inequality between women and men. To do this we are working at many levels: social, economic and political.
At the social level, we challenge behaviours and practices that discriminate on the basis of gender.
That could be practices such as female genital mutilation that cause deep physical and psychological damage, or beliefs about women’s ability or worth that mean families don’t send girls to school.
In India, single, divorced or widowed women are customarily excluded from many areas of life, are often subject to significant discrimination and violent abuse, and can feel extremely ostracised and alone. The work of our partner Ekal Nari Sangathan (Strong Women Alone) is a great example of how we are challenging social contexts that discriminate.
Economically, the fact that women are often reliant on men makes them vulnerable – how can you leave an abusive home when you will not be able to provide for yourself or your children alone?
Earning a living and participating in work can also be major sources of self-respect and empowerment. But women must be able to participate on equal terms – worldwide, women are paid on average 10% to 30% less than men for the same work.
Christian Aid programmes all over the world train women in the skills they need to earn a living, and give them the financial and practical opportunities they need to find work or start their own businesses. This story from the occupied Palestinian territory shows the difference this has made to women’s lives.
Laws and policies are critical in providing a protective legal framework for women’s rights. For example, in 2009, and largely as a result of the work of our partner organisations, a new Afghan law was amended that would have legalised marital rape and child marriage.
More recently, in 2012, the same Afghan partners have succeeded in changing the law so that adultery and ‘running away from home’ are no longer illegal, meaning that women cannot be put in prison for these offences any longer.
In this five-minute podcast Christian Aid Director Loretta Minghella talks about why she cares so passionately about gender equality. Hear her own experiences of discrimination and about the women who have inspired her.
What women want? Equality
Men have needs too
Because women are the ones who are usually facing discrimination on the basis of their sex, ‘gender in development’ is often reduced to talking only about females.
However, a true gender approach means recognising the different needs of women and men, and designing appropriate responses.
To illustrate; Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and 80% of victims are men aged between 18 and 35. Christian Aid supports a project called Male Awareness Now (MAN), that works with young men between 14-24 to help them out of vulnerable situations and find a future.
They give counselling, sessions to build self-esteem, personal development and conflict resolution. This can be seen as a gender project because it is helping vulnerable men to face a problem that affects them disproportionately because of their gender.
Sharing the world
In today’s world, women constitute half the world’s population, perform nearly two-thirds of its work hours, receive one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-hundredth of the world’s property (UN).
Christian Aid’s gender, power and exclusion advisor, Josh Levene, invites us to imagine what a world of equality between women and men would look like, and to think about how we are going to make it happen.
Whether working to support the needs of women or men, Christian Aid works with the whole community to bring about change.
There’s no point telling a woman she can earn the same as a man unless you work with employers to educate them about the law.
There’s no point telling a woman that she doesn’t have to suffer domestic violence, unless you also work with men – fathers, husbands, and religious and community leaders – to change attitudes and practices. The police, judiciary and media all have a role to play.
So we work with both women and men, and at all levels, all over the world, in our mission to end inequality.
Will you work with us? Get involved today in the fight to end poverty.
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