These past several days, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development has been gathered in Ethiopia with the intent, essentially, of blueprinting global goals and the budget to achieve them for the next fifteen years. This is a crucial time to make changes for gender equality and for the creation of worldwide systems that improve, not impede, women's ability to have practical and secure jobs.
Since there is a lot of vague talk surrounding the facts about women's global economic status and gender inequality, some solid numbers will help us clear the fog.
Women are paid 24% less than men worldwide. This means that for every $50,000 the average man earns, the average woman earns only $38,000. Furthermore, rather than a modest supply of monetary aid to meet this gaping need for realistic government aid to women, there is an international deficit of up to 90% of the necessary funds. That number isn't overly surprising when you consider that a mere 2% of international aid currently goes to bettering women's workforce opportunities.
To color the rest of the picture, the comparative levels of education for women and men worldwide are 7.3 years and 8.2, respectively. The relative closeness stems largely from elementary schooling, as the disparity widens at higher levels. And it makes sense: if women are to work respectable jobs that allow them to support themselves and their children, they need some kind of education or training. However, girls tend to drop out of school far sooner than their male counterparts due to pregnancy and, nine months later, a lack of childcare. Thus is produced the statistic that women spend two and a half times more of their days tending to people and homes, without any form of pay, than men do. Which is fine, if that's where they're choosing to be. Too often, however, the choice is never given.
Consider this: because of girls' and women's inferior social position and the increasing prevalence of violence against them - particularly but not only in developing countries - HIV/AIDS has become the top killer of pregnancy-age females worldwide. Not only are they far more vulnerable to acquire the illness, but too many of them are also not afforded the resources to prevent and/or treat it.
From a bird's eye view, all of this forms one distressing but connected circle back to the centric issue: a gaping hole in the spot of finances to create programs that both support women and bend to their circumstantial needs. With only 5% of international aid spent on promoting gender equality and a paltry 2% toward women's economic equality, there's simply not enough to go around for creating systems that effectively help both impoverished and oppressed women out of the natural holes society has dug for many of them. There's a thousand significant ways in which their situations can slowly but surely be improved, and in fact, the system is crying out for change; but it's not merely the work of politicans and presidents. Businesses and labor unions, along with every citizen possessing a vote and a voice, have a role too.
We'll discuss those chances for change more extensively in next week's post. Stay tuned!
Photo credit: UN Photo/Chrisopher Herwig