International Women’s Day 2014

By · 26 February, 2014 · Features

The United Nations estimates that 70% of the world’s poorest people are women.

Lack of access to education, coercion into early marriage and unequal share of both income and land are all contributing factors in making women more susceptible to poverty.   International Women’s Day, held globally on March 8th, is a day reserved for looking back on past struggles but more importantly looking ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women.

The statistics against women are staggering:

– Over 61% of illiterate youth worldwide are women.  Education is critical in the fight against poverty as it can assist women to find decent and well-paid work.

–  Poverty exposes girls to the risk of slavery.   Their families may sell them as unpaid servants, sex slaves or child brides. 60 million girls, aged 18 years and younger, have been forced into an unwanted marriage; sexual and physical violence is often prevalent in these marriages.

–  In Cameroon, women take on 75% of all agricultural work and yet they own less than 10% of the land.   Effectively, if their husband or parent were to die, they would have no claim to the land and therefore lose the income they rely on. If women had equal access to land as men then combined agricultural output could reduce the number of starving people worldwide by 150 million people.

women and poverty

Gender inequality is not a problem that is confined solely to the developing world. With women’s participation in work improving national economies, empowerment of women within the workforce makes good economic sense. On average, Australian women will earn 17% less than man throughout their working life – a pay gap costing our economy $93 billion per year.

The solution lies in education, which can lead to paid work and provide the means for women in order to lift themselves and their children out of poverty.  It has been proven that when a woman is educated at a secondary level she is more likely to have children at a later stage of her life, effectively increasing her chances of gaining paid employment, which she can then use to send her own children to school and help break the cycle of poverty.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2014, The Australian National Committee for UN Women are holding commemorative events in five major cities – Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra – from the 5th until the 7th of March.  Prominent guest speakers and attendees include Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, journalist Catherine Fox and Pacific Regional Programme Director for UN Women Elzira Sagynbaeva. Funds raised for this year’s IWD will be going toward UN Women’s programs to help educate, support and train women living in poverty.

If you are interested in volunteering at any of the IWD events please contact the National Office on (02) 6173 3222 or email UN Women Australia via


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