Poverty carries a woman's face

The strong individual focus on the development assistance policy platform raises questions about the implementation of the structural changes required to combat poverty, which even today mainly affect the world's women. That is the opinion of Lena Ag, Secretary General of Kvinna till Kvinna

Poverty carries a woman's face. The vast majority of the world's poorest people are still women. It is about everything from discrimination in the labor market, to the right to inherit and own land, to social norms that prohibit women from working, as well as the man controlling the family's resources. Poverty is about more than economic assets. It's about power and influence. Men still sit in 78 percent of the seats in the world parliament and have more influence over which issues should be prioritized and how resources should be allocated.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, every third woman in the world is exposed to violence, usually by a close partner. This violence follows the woman through her life cycle. Gender-based violence perpetrated against women because they are women. During his time as head of the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, Kemal Dervis argued that poverty could not be eradicated if violence against women continued. These facts point not only to a waste of potential resources but also to one of the greatest human rights scandals of our time.

The World Bank highlights gender equality as a driving force and catalyst for economic development. The bank believes that politicians and decision-makers must address what is the very root of gender differences. That men have more power, more money and more privileges than women and that this is an inhibiting factor for the economy, democracy and peace. The World Bank calls on national and international decision-makers to strengthen women's property rights, economic conditions as well as to strengthen women's influence.

Over the years, Kvinna till Kvinna has repeatedly heard them work with women's activists in conflict - ravaged regions, saying that it is precisely the lack of women's participation that is one of the biggest problems for women. Without a vote at the tables where decisions are made, they have little opportunity to influence the political agenda. We see daily how important women's organizations are to strengthen girls and women in the local community, so that they can take the step further - within school, into the labor market or into politics. We also see how difficult it is for women's organizations to find long-term support, both within their own country and from international donors.

It is against this background that we want to see clearer writings by the government in the development aid policy platform. The fact that the government makes the important work of individual activists visible is good, but more is needed to challenge structures that oppress people and hinder economic development.

The development assistance policy platform must bring together and clarify development assistance policy and be a starting point for its governance. The overarching goals are to combat poverty and oppression. Great emphasis is placed on gender equality and the rights of girls and women, and the importance of women's organization is emphasized. It is of course welcome. The problem is that the platform is ambiguous, which creates uncertainty about what should be governing and not. The ambiguity is reinforced by the lack of an analysis of the structural causes of poverty, including the underlying power structures.

To change structures that keep people in poverty and oppression, individuals need to act together. Civil society is of crucial importance here. It is thanks to women's movements around the world that women's rights and gender equality are on the political map.

The situation of women has improved in some areas, but development is too slow. A report ahead of the UN Women's Mission to be held in the coming weeks in New York emphasizes, for example, that more girls are going to school and that maternal mortality is decreasing. Today, 13 women sit in the presidency globally, three were appointed last year, and women are gaining ground in the labor market, especially in the Western world.

Much remains to be done, however. Through our partners in conflict-affected countries, we know that the structural and widespread gender oppression still affects the lives of too many women and girls.

Together we are strong. It shows Kvinna till Kvinna's 20-year history as well as the Swedish women's movement. It is good to be reminded of the power of civil society in a time of individualism. Therefore, the government's development aid policy platform, which is now being prepared, raises questions. How should the strong individual focus that permeates the platform be linked to the structural changes required to combat poverty and oppression? All in all, we want greater priority to be given to enabling people to act together. It is the driving force for change, away from poverty and oppression.

Lena Ag, Secretary General of Kvinna till Kvinna

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