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 by UN WOMEN (The World’s Women 2015):

  • Around 50% of people living in poor households are women and girls. However, lone mothers and older women are more likely to be poor than men in similar situation.
  • While a record 143 countries guaranteed equality between men and women in their constitutions by 2014, another 52 had not taken this step
  • On average women in the labor market still earn 24% less than men globally and up to 75%of women’s jobs are informal or unprotected in developing countries
  • As of August 2015, only 22% of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow rise from 11.3% in 1995
  • Worldwide, 35%of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual 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.

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.

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.