Posts Tagged ‘poverty’
by stuartbramhall in Feminism
Today (March 8th) is International Women’s Day. This year the UN has declared the theme “Empower Rural Women: End Hunger and Poverty.”
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), women comprise 43 percent of agricultural workers worldwide and 70 percent in third world countries. More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. According to the FAO, gender inequality is a major cause of both poverty and hunger. Their studies suggest that if women were allowed the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent, lifting 100-150 million out of hunger.
Gender inequality and inadequate access to education, health care and credit pose massive challenges for rural women in the developing world. The global food and economic crisis and extreme weather events related to climate change have greatly aggravated their plight.
According to UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), women and girls face still face extremely high rates of educational poverty. They find that approximately 80 percent of the 67 million children not attending school live in rural areas and that the majority are girls.
The FAO cites the West African nation of Burkina Faso as a prime example of rural education and gender gap challenges. According to UNESCO data released today, only about 22 percent of the country’s rural girls attend primary school, compared to 72 percent of urban girls or 82 percent of urban boys.
In Morocco in North Africa, 55% of rural males and 37% of rural women receive at least five years of education.
Addressing Poverty and Hunger by Empowering Women
According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) , there has been a surge of interest in recent years in rural women and the role they play in agriculture. This has been prompted by the renewed focus on agriculture – sparked by two food crises; droughts linked to climate change, forcing men to seek alternative livelihoods away from home; HIV/AIDS, which has virtually decimated the agriculture work force in southern Africa; and the growing body of research into nutrition and food quality.
A new report IFPRI entitled Engendering Agricultural Research, Development and Extension, which will be presented at the Global Conference on Women in Agriculture in India March 13-15, calls for a more “gender equitable” agriculture. Specifically it argues that the development of homestead gardens should get the same attention from policymakers as male-dominated aspects such as cash-crops. It also calls for an expanded concept of the food sector – to include staple crops, but also fish, livestock, gardens, the nutritional value of food and the use of water. It also advocates for government policies providing microcredit, as well as opportunities for land and livestock ownership, to women farmers. Finally it calls for more investment in women female agricultural scientists and greater attention to food processing, to better preserve the nutrient content of food, as well as ensuring food safety.
Female Poverty in the US
Sadly the feminization of poverty is, by no means, limited to the third world. According to the 2010 census, American women are the hardest hit by the global economic crisis in every category. The poverty rate among US women rose to 14.5% last year, up from 13.9% in 2009 and the highest in 17 years. More than 17 million American women lived in poverty last year, compared to 12.6 million American men. Single mothers are the hardest hit. Forty percent of women who head families currently live in poverty.
by stuartbramhall in Sustainability
I have blogged before about chronic disease (and the need to produce extra farm labor) being the primary population pressure in the third world. Demographers seeking to understand first world population pressures simply look at the US with its 2.1 fertility rate – compared to a 1.1 – 1.4 rate in the most of the industrialized world. In my mind, the fact that the capitalist elite view our high fertility rate as a success story says it all: namely that there are deliberate policies and messaging in operation to encourage robust US population growth (I wrote an article in June for Counterpunch regarding the aggressive targeting of women by the US advertising industry – see http://www.counterpunch.org/bramhall06252010.html)
Most demographers are unanimous on the two main reasons for rapid population growth in the US: 1) it has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world 2) American women have the worst access in the developed world to affordable contraception, mainly due to extreme political pressure exerted by a well-funded religious right (guess what, anti-abortion laws aren’t about morality).
Part I: What Progressives Can Do – In the Third World
For once Bill Gates and I are on the same page – kind of - about chronic disease causing overpopulation in the developing world. Unfortunately we don’t agree on the solution. He favors mass immunization, which in my view is like trying to cure measles by cutting the spots off. Vaccines are of very little benefit in communities where people are starving to death. Funny that Gates would spend all that time in Africa and not notice the connection between poverty, malnutrition and disease.
In my opinion, the best way for progressives to address third world overpopulation is to address the root cause of third world poverty, starting with the racket World Bank and IMF have going to aid and abet Export Credit scammers and other global financial institutions – who borrow money from the Federal Reserve and other central banks for 0.25% interest and charge developing countries 6.25% interest. Then when countries, such as Pakistan and Haiti, have their economies wiped out by earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters, the World Bank and IMF waltz in and loan them more money – on condition that they agree to slash government expenditures for education, health and nutritional support.
The best way to put an end to this scam is to get behind the Jubilee movement, started in the UK in the late nineties. Have you ever noticed the Christian right is very selective about which Biblical laws they follow? The Jubilee movement, based on Jubilee and Sabbatical Law Moses was given on Mount Sinai [Exodus 21:2-6, Exodus 23:10-11, Leviticus 25:1-7, 18-22, and Deuteronomy 15:1-11, 12-18], has the ultimate goal of forgiving all third world debt. Over the last ten years, they have successfully lobbied to have debt payments suspended or written off in numerous countries.
Right now the focus is on Pakistan and Haiti. There is an Avaaz petition campaign to cancel the debt incurred by both countries by past military dictatorships – in the case of Pakistan to support US strategic and military objectives in Afghanistan. Below are some important Jubilee links:
Other links regarding the nefarious US Export Credit scam:
Part II: What Progressives Can Do – In the US
1. Reducing teen pregnancy:
Studies show that sex education is the most effective intervention in reducing teen pregnancy rates. And there is absolutely no reason why the Christian right should have a monopoly on pregnancy counseling. Progressives need to start our own rape crisis and sex education clinics, comparable to the “birth right” counseling movement. It’s especially important to educate teenage girls about where they can obtain free and low cost contraception and morning after pills – and about date rape and the fact that men who engage in it can be prosecuted. Studies also show most unintended teen pregnancy results from unprotected intercourse with men over 18. And here again, teenagers need to be vigorously supported in pursuing prosecution.
2. Making contraception (including abortion) accessible and affordable:
In a number of states, the well-funded religious right has been very effective in lobbying for laws restricting access, not just to abortion, but to all contraception. As always, progressives need to vigorously oppose this trend.