Women’s inequality: achieving gender justice to tackle poverty

Oxfam considers that systematic discrimination against women and girls is both a cause and a result of the inequality that drives poverty. Moreover it can be exacerbated by other factors such as class, ethnicity, sexual orientation and age, as well as religious and other forms of fundamentalism.

Despite the wide recognition that women’s rights fulfilment is needed for the achievement of social justice, and the progress in securing the women’s rights during the last decades, women continue to have their rights violated.  Likewise, extreme inequality across the globe is having a tremendous impact on their lives.

Poverty has specific and aggravated impacts in women’s lives. Their unequal position in society means that they have less power, money, land, protection from violence and access to education, healthcare and political spaces.

According to recent data:

  • On average women in the labor market still earn 23% less than men globally and up to 75% of women’s jobs are informal or unprotected in developing countries.
  • At the current rate of progress, it will take 170 years for women and men to be employed at the same rates, paid the same for equal work, and have the same levels of seniority.
  • 155 countries have at least one law which means women have fewer economic rights than men. This includes 18 countries where husbands can legally prevent their wives from working, and 100 countries where women are not allowed to do the same jobs as men.
  • As of June 2016, only 22% of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow rise from 11.3% in 1995.
  • Worldwide, one in three women experience sexual or physical violence, most likely from their intimate partner, yet 46 countries have no laws against domestic violence.

Oxfam understands gender justice as the full equality and equity between women and men in all spheres of life, resulting in women jointly, and on an equal basis with men, defining and shaping the policies, structures and decisions that affect their lives and society as a whole.

This means that it is not only necessary to continue improving legislation and policy, but also to transform societies through sustained, widespread changes in attitudes and beliefs about gender power relations.

Our Strategic Plan (2013-2019) states that by 2019 we expect that more poor and marginalized women will:

  • Occupy key positions of power and influence in communities and organizations,
  • Have secured greater access to, ownership and control of productive resources, individually and collectively
  • Benefit from positive changes to attitudes and beliefs, enhanced standards, legislation and regulations to safeguard women’s rights, including the right to be heard and the right to live free from violence
  • Have improved access to essential services including those related to gender violence and sexual and reproductive rights that are delivered in ways that support the empowerment of women;
  • More women and men, civil society and private sector organizations and governments are actively engaged in advancing women’s leadership, women’s rights and eliminating violence against women.

Oxfam envisions a safe and just world, where women and girls gain power over every aspect of their lives and live free from violence. Oxfam believes that poverty and powerlessness are avoidable, and can be eliminated by active citizens and accountable institutions. When women and girls are able to make their own choices and exercise their collective voice, and when institutions address their needs and interests, gender justice will be achieved.

For that reason it is important for women to be supported in developing their own visions and strategies for change, and in building the organizations and movements required to affirm that achieving women’s rights is a foundation for all development goals.