New Delhi, Nov. 9: Seventy per cent of the world’s poor are women. Two-thirds of the 875 million illiterate adults in the world are women. Of the 60 million girls out of school worldwide, 21 million live in South and West Asia.
An international conference on gender and poverty that began in Delhi today will focus on gender disparities in poverty and prepare a charter of action to deal with it.
“Throughout the world, the extent of poverty among women in absolute terms is higher than that for men. The male-female gap in the extent of poverty is particularly skewed against women who are below the poverty line,” says Veena Nayyar of Women’s Political Watch, a non-governmental organisation.
“The conference will examine the causes for women accounting for 70 per cent of the world poor,” says Nayyar. “We want the government to wake up to the fact that it has to do something for women.”
The organisers of the conference, attended by representatives from 30 countries, said strong gender disparities continue in India even as the level of poverty has come down. “In countries like China, a higher economic growth is favouring men,” asserted an organiser.
In most countries, the increment in wage rates has been higher among men than women. “Employment among women does not seem to have increased. There is, on the contrary, evidence of increasing casualisation and irregularity of work among women following global reforms,” said the United Nations.
The conference comes in the wake of startling revelations on gender disparity in the Unesco’s recently released Education for All report. It shows that the majority of countries have not made sufficient progress towards eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education.
The conference was inaugurated by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with an address on Governance and Gender Perspective. Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi and People’s Democratic Party leader Mehbooba Mufti are also expected to attend the conference.
“For the first time, grassroots women will be able to interact with political leaders. There will be a cross-section of people — political leaders, non-governmental organisations, activists and ordinary women,” said Nayyar.
The poor health status of women impacts child malnutrition. India accounts for more than 20 per cent of the world’s child population but has 40 per cent of the malnourished children. The UN also says there are high levels of anaemia among women of all economic classes.