Poverty and lack of education can have life-threatening consequences for women
While education is a key factor in a woman's ability to care for her family and even for her child's survival, poverty can increase violence, and women have fewer options to escape sexual exploitation and trafficking due to lack of income and resources.
Poverty can increase violence. Particular groups of women, including women and girls living in poverty, face multiple forms of discrimination, and face increased risks of violence as a result. Studies show that poor girls are 2.5 times more likely to marry in childhood than those living in the wealthiest quintile.
Women and girls living in poverty are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, including trafficking. And those who experience domestic or intimate partner violence have fewer options to leave violent relationships, due to their lack of income and resources.
Poverty and Hunger
- Gender inequality is a major cause and effect of hunger and poverty: it is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls. (Source: WFP Gender Policy and Strategy.)
- On average, women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, raising total agricultural output in these countries by 2.5 to 4 percent. This would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around 12 to 17 percent.
- Almost 70 percent of employed women in South Asia work in agriculture, as do more than 60 percent of employed women in sub-Saharan Africa. This highlights the importance of developing policies and programmes that address their needs, interests and constraints.
- Less than 20 percent of the world's landholders are women. Women represent fewer than 5 percent of all agricultural landholders in North Africa and West Asia, while in sub-Saharan Africa they make up an average of 15 percent.
- Women in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend about 40 billion hours a year collecting water. Per week, women in Guinea collect water for 5.7 hours, compared to 2.3 hours for men; in Sierra Leone women spend 7.3 compared to 4.5 hours for men; and in Malawi this figure is 9.1 compared to 1.1 hours. This significantly impacts women's employment opportunities.
- Research indicates that when more income is put into the hands of women, child nutrition, health and education improves. In South and Central America, rural children are about 1.8 times more likely to be underweight than their urban counterparts. Other regions do not fare much better.
- Women make up more than two-thirds of the world's 796 million illiterate people.
- According to global statistics, just 39 percent of rural girls attend secondary school. This is far fewer than rural boys (45 percent), urban girls (59 percent) and urban boys (60 percent).
- Every additional year of primary school increases girls' eventual wages by 10-20 percent. It also encourages them to marry later and have fewer children, and leaves them less vulnerable to violence.
- While progress has been made in reducing the gender gap in urban primary school enrolment, data from 42 countries shows that rural girls are twice as likely as urban girls to be out of school.
- In Pakistan a half-kilometre increase in the distance to school will decrease girls' enrolment by 20 percent. In Egypt, Indonesia and several African countries, building local schools in rural communities increased girls' enrolment.
- In Cambodia, 48 percent of rural women are illiterate compared to 14 percent of rural men.
- Rural women's deficits in education have long-term implications for family well-being and poverty reduction. Vast improvements have been seen in the mortality rates of children less than 5 years old since 1990, but rural rates are usually much higher than urban ones.
- Data from 68 countries indicates that a woman's education is a key factor in determining a child's survival.
- Children of mothers with no education in the Latin American and Caribbean region are 3.1 times more likely to die than those with mothers who have secondary or tertiary education, and 1.6 more likely to die that those whose mothers have primary-level education.
On average, women make up about 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Evidence indicates that if these women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, raising total agricultural output in these countries by 2.5 to 4 percent. This would reduce the number of hungry people in the world by around 12 to 17 percent.