Poverty is sexist

I’ve been lost in my own struggles lately. It’s not a bad thing, I’ve been focusing, working hard, achieving goals I set for myself that I wasn’t even sure were possible to meet. But along with focus comes a lack of peripheral vision. When I pay a lot of attention to getting what I want, I stop paying much attention to others.

Luckily, there is Facebook. And email. And the blogs I follow and the sites I frequent and all those other reminders of the outside world that do have a way of saying things like …

povertyWhat? Poverty is poverty. It sucks and I wish I could do more about it, but sexist? Well, read on.

According to Dawn.com “Women face the triple burden of child-bearing, child rearing, and domestic unpaid labor; they have been denied opportunities for growth, are without access to adequate healthcare, education or income, and simultaneously forced to live in the tight bind of culture and tradition. Their poverty is multidimensional; not only of lack of income, but also of nutrition and health; they are denied education and the ability to earn an adequate income, their vulnerability prevents them from advancing their innate capabilities. To add to that, gender biases and patriarchal/misogynist mindsets permeate every aspect of their lives. Living with discrimination and gender-based violence is a daily reality for many.

A wonderful organization called “One” (great name) is pushing to address the additional burdens that poverty places on girls and women in regions where extreme poverty is common. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is hosting a meeting of the world’s most powerful leaders in June and she gets to decide what gets talked about. According to Billboard.com “more than 30 influential female celebrities, politicians, executives and activists have signed an open letter by charity ONE to raise awareness for women’s rights around the world.” The goal of the petition is to get the issue of women and poverty on the agenda. You can sign the One petition on Facebook here.

Dalai8Lest one think that the greater economic burdens on women exist only in far corners of the world, a report by Maria Shriver that came out about a year ago noted that in the United States (1) Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women, and these workers often get zero paid sick days (2) The average woman is paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and that figure is much lower for black and Latina women; African American women earn only 64 cents and Hispanic women only 55 cents for every dollar made by a white man and (3) men still make more money than women who have the same level of educational achievement, from high school diplomas to advanced graduate degrees. It isn’t surprising that 60% of low-income women in the U.S. say they believe even if they made all the right choices, “the economy doesn’t work for someone like me.”

That’s a sad statement. As I sit here in my relatively easy circumstances, I wonder: How do you focus, set goals for yourself, and achieve when the system is so stacked against you? How slanted does the playing field have to be before it just clearly isn’t worth even trying to play the game?”

Of course there are those who overcome even the worst. But they shouldn’t be the rare exception. There is no single better way to raise a region out of extreme poverty than to educate and empower the women living there. The children benefit. The region gains. The world is better.

Yesterday March 8, was International Women’s Day. It’s not a day too late to sign the petition for One.