Surviving, But Not Always Thriving

“Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”

~ Muhammad Ali

President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced poverty legislation in his January, 1964 State of the Union address. It was during that speech that the War on Poverty was officially introduced. The President’s speech led to congressional action: passage of the Economic Opportunity Act which directed federal attention and dollars toward programs designed to improve the welfare of economically disadvantaged citizens.

These days, trying to get this do nothing bunch of loafers known as Congress to pass an act that would be considered both an attempt at problem-solving and an expansion of the federal government’s reach would be challenging; Congress delivering legislation aimed at something such as poverty reduction would be an amazing act of bipartisanship.

Assuming that, in this current political environment, that isn’t going to happen let’s see where we are and what we have accomplished since Mr. Johnson’s speech, at which time the overall U.S. poverty rate stood at 19%. Here are several sobering statistics about the global condition of women:

    • “Women do two thirds of the world’s work. Yet they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property. They are among the poorest of the world’s poor.” – Barber B. Conable, Jr.
    • According to the Global Poverty Project, “Women make up half of the world’s population and yet represent a staggering 70% of the world’s poor.” In other words, around the world women are disproportionately affected by poverty.
    • “Women living in poverty are especially vulnerable to domestic violence because their poverty makes it difficult for them to escape male violence at home”, states the Women’s Legal and Education Action Fund of Canada.
    • In the United States, “Education pays for both women and men, but the pay gap persists”, based on studies conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the Wisconsin Women’s Council. Additionally, the studies state that “compared to the earnings of all men (of all races and ethnic groups), Black women earned 71 percent and Hispanic women earned 62 percent as much in 2009. White and Asian women earned 82 percent and 95 percent as much as all men, respectively.”

Women have come a long way but it’s clear that there is still a long way to go.

On March 8th, International Women’s Day was observed. While the purpose was to celebrate the achievements of women throughout history and across nations, that day of observation is over and it is more important than ever to be vigilant about eradicating poverty and addressing women’s issues. Why? Because what affects women impacts the family and the structure of societies. Things that impacts women impact cultures. Without support for educational programs, elimination of hunger and access to real economic opportunities, this ‘feminisation’ of poverty can and will have a lasting impact on both genders for generations to come.

“Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.”  ~ Eli Khamarov 

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Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For more on Women’s History Month visit the National Women’s History Project. Additionally, check out Women Thrive Worldwide for information about policy initiatives to help women in developing countries lift themselves out of poverty. And, of course, direct action helps; donate to Kiva.org.