This is the third post in a series considering the root causes of hunger. The Millennium Development Goals serve as a helpful framework, and this week, we’re looking at the rights of women.

Millennium Development Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

In Malawi, Albeta Chilombo deposits income from her small business into the Kasungu Community Savings and Credit Cooperative, a bank supported by ELCA World Hunger.

The inequality women have faced throughout history is well known. What may be less well known is how much a society benefits when women share equal status and rights with men. Here are a few statistics from The Girl Effect website

  • “When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has .2 fewer children.”
  • “When girls and women can earn income, they reinvest 90 percent of it into their families, as compared to only 30 to 40 percent for men.” 
  • “An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ future wages by 10 to 20 percent.”
  • “An extra year of secondary school boosts girls’ future wages by 15 to 25 percent.”

This means that as educated girls grow up to lead productive and successful lives, every one around them tends to benefit from their success. They raise healthier and better educated children, enhancing the opportunities for future generations. In addition, educated women, if given the opportunity, are better able to participate in the workforce. This means both income for themselves AND increasing a country’s capacity for economic growth and poverty reduction. Ensuring access to education for girls and women is a critical first step toward empowering them, their children, and their communities.

Traditional laws related to property and assets also create impediments for women. Despite the fact that in many countries women are responsible for the majority of agricultural labor and household management, they often own none of the land, buildings, or businesses, and may have very little to say about how household assets are used. What’s more, they often have no ability to obtain credit. As a result, should they become widowed or abandoned by their husbands, women can be left with no money, no house, no land, and no way of growing food. Worse still, they may be ostracized by their communities, leaving them with no where to go. Yet they frequently retain responsibility for feeding and caring for their children. In such cases, women and their children have little hope of escaping poverty and hunger. Until women achieve the ability and right to support themselves, hunger and poverty are likely to persist.

-Nancy Michaelis