International Women’s Groups Mobilize to Tackle Poverty


New York, March 9th 2005 — Leaders of prominent international women’s rights groups gathered in New York City on Sunday, March 6, 2005 to mark the global launch of a new alliance aimed at ending poverty among women.

 

Established under the umbrella of the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP), this broad group of hundreds of advocates including the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), ActionAid International, and Oxfam International, focuses exclusively on the importance of framing poverty as a women’s issue.

 

Women from Around the World joined the Launch of the Global Call to Action for Women’s Rights

 

At the event, people who have joined the global GCAP movement wore white bands in support of the cause. With faces from nearly every continent, this compelling visual symbolized an unwavering resolve to end global poverty.

 

This event, the first in a series for 2005, attracted a who’s who in the area of women’s rights groups.

 

Ten years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, governments still fail to adequately recognize that poverty is a human rights issue that disproportionately affects women. This call to action is an opportunity for women, men, and youth to unite in order to bring about real and urgent changes in policies.

 

Two-thirds of the world’s 1.3 billion desperately poor are women, living on less than one dollar a day.

 

Gender inequality makes women particularly vulnerable to poverty. In many parts of the world, women are the main–and sometimes the only–caregivers for their families while earning low wages through labor- intensive work. Though they make productive and essential contributions to their community and country, women face more economic obstacles than men and have less access to education, land, money, time, and other resources. Consider this:

 

In many countries, including some of those in Sub- Saharan Africa, women have no right to own property, moveable or immovable. Property rights belong to their husbands. If the men die, their families can take control of all possessions.

 

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, schools are typically located miles from villages. Many parents are fearful of sending their daughters to these schools because of the risks of sexual violence which would bring dishonor to the family. Even those girls who do attend class are often treated dismissively by teachers and taught impractical skills because girls are considered less valuable and less worthy than boys. Taken together, this environment perpetuates a cycle of poverty through lack of opportunity for women.

 

HIV rates in developing countries are soaring. Nearly 50% of women in Sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV. Lack of rights makes women particularly vulnerable. A study in Zambia demonstrated that less than one in four women interviewed believed that a married woman could refuse to have sex with her husband even if he had been unfaithful and was HIV infected.

 

Even women who are educated about safer sex are fearful of violence if they ask a partner to use a condom. This powerlessness increases the likelihood that women will become HIV positive and no longer be able to provide for their families.

 

According to Everjoice Win, International Head of Women’s Rights for ActionAid International, ‘Governments should, at the very least, come up with legislation and policies, and implement them at the national level to make sure that the status of women is uplifted and the right of women are guaranteed not just on paper but in practice. When we talk about poverty for women, we’re not just talking about material lack.

 

In many countries of the world where ActionAid works, women are regarded as non-persons who don’t have a voice to speak for themselves, who don’t have choices about their own life.’

 

The Global Call to Action against Poverty is a worldwide alliance committed to pressuring world leaders to fulfill their promises outlined by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. Hundreds of civil society organizations from all over the world — including women’s groups, trade unions, faith groups and human rights organizations — are joining together to work toward shifts in national and international policies in order to end poverty and both achieve and exceed the Millennium Development Goals. Mary Robinson, former Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, is among the high profile individuals who are weighing in strongly behind the campaign. With the upcoming G-8 Summit in July, and the UN General Assembly on the Millennium Goals in September, 2005 could be the year to achieve a breakthrough on the war against poverty. A successful way to eradicate poverty must include policies that create opportunities for women. Success means taking action to promote women’s rights in every country around the world.

 

‘Though the GCAP alliance is global, the real work is done by women in their home towns and villages,’ says Joanna Kerr, Executive Director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), a co-host of the event. ‘Women will return to their countries to mobilize others to influence their government leaders to effect lasting changes.’

 

Please contact Bernice Manallo or Ciara Gaynor to receive an electronic press packet. Download the Global Call to Action for Women’s Rights leaflet here.

 

Event Co-hosts: ActionAid, African Women’s Development Fund, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), Centre for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), Comite de America Latina Y el Caribe Para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer (CLADEM), INFORM Sri Lanka, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Gender and Trade Network (IGTN), International Women’s Health Coalition (IWHC), International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, Oxfam International, Red de Educacion Popular Entre Mujeres, Sancharika Samuha (Women’s Media Forum) Nepal, UN Millennium Campaign, Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), Women’s Initiatives for Gender Justice, Women’s International Coalition for Economic Justice (WICEJ).

 

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