A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
New research by Oxfam International uncovers a hidden aspect of the global economic crisis – its impact on women.
"First the company reduced our pay, then we lost our jobs. They have refused to pay us severance or other benefits. Since I lost my job sometimes we eat only once or twice a day. I don’t know what to do, we are just camping in front of the factory gates, waiting for the company to pay us."
Ms. Kry Chamnan, Cambodia, February 2009.
Ms. Chamnan’s story is not unusual – it is echoed by women in countries across Asia and Latin America who participated in Oxfam’s research. Women workers are the backbone of industries that have been hit hard by the global economic crisis and women tend to be concentrated in insecure jobs with meagre earnings and few rights.
Oxfam’s research suggests that as supply chains are squeezed by falling global demand, women in export manufacturing, garments and services are often first to be laid off, with employers leaving pay outstanding and evading legal obligations to give notice and pay compensation, with governments often turning a blind eye.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) predicts that the global economic crisis will plunge a further 22 million women into unemployment, make female unemployment higher than male unemployment, and make the ratio of women pushed into insecure jobs this year higher than for men.
Failure to act now to protect women and children in poverty from the economic crisis will have a disastrous impact on global development in general, and women’s rights, livelihoods, and families.