According to this year’s UN Millennium Development Goals report, women and girls now have access to more education, economic opportunities, and political power than ever before in human history. But despite monumental leaps in gender equality in the past two decades, women and girls are still disproportionately affected by extreme poverty.
Economic inequality. Women and girls are still more likely to live in poverty than their male counterparts. This is true in 54 percent of countries that track data. Globally, women still earn 24 percent less than men, and are more likely to be unemployed, underemployed, or excluded from the workforce than their male counterparts.
Childbirth and maternal care. In the developing world, the likelihood that a woman will die in childbirth is 14 times higher than in the developed world. In 2013, 289,000 women died in childbirth—that’s 800 women who die each day from childbirth complications that have mostly been eliminated in the developed world.
Contraception and family planning. In 2015, 12 percent of married or partnered women who wanted to avoid pregnancy did not have access to birth control and related health care services.
At The Life You Can Save, one of our goals is to make the world a safer, healthier, and fairer place for women and girls. Our highly effective charities have a proven track record of empowering women and girls from some of the world’s poorest communities.
Living Goods helps women set up and run their own micro-franchises. Women business owners travel door-to-door to sell contraception, malaria nets, medicines, condoms, soap, and hygiene products—and keep 15 percent of the profits for themselves. Living Goods provides business support and training for women business owners, who bring vital health supplies to communities that otherwise would have difficulty accessing these goods.
There are 600 million schoolgirls in the developing world, and millions do not have access to contraceptive options. Each year, 15 million adolescent girls become mothers. For girls who drop out of school, studies show that pregnancy is the reason in more than 50 percent of cases. According to Population Services International (PSI), in some sub-Saharan regions, adolescent pregnancy causes 10 percent of school drop outs among teenage girls. Providing contraceptive access through innovative programs like those run by PSI is one of the most cost-effective ways of keeping our girls in school, which translates into enhanced economic wellbeing in adulthood. By 2020, Population Services International estimates that 120 million women and girls will gain access to contraception through their family planning services.
Since 2009, Fistula Foundation has performed more than 14,000 free fistula repair surgeries. Women who suffer from fistula often leak urine and feces due to tears and injuries sustained in childbirth or violent sexual assault; the strong odor often means that these women find themselves ostracized by their families and communities. Fistula are easy to treat, but will not heal on their own without surgical intervention. A low-cost, effective surgery through the Fistula Foundation is free to a woman in need, and the associated costs for treatment total just $450 for a donor.
To date, Oxfam has provided 32,000 gender-specific emergency care kits to women affected by the 2015 Nepal earthquake. These kits include sanitary supplies and help keep displaced women safe and healthy.
Development Media International (DMI) runs television and radio campaigns in developing regions to raise awareness for important health and wellness issues. Often, DMI’s campaigns center on health issues that have a particular effect on women and girls’ wellbeing—such as family planning, child marriage, and HIV/AIDS prevention and management. DMI works with local broadcasters to create informative and engaging programming, reaching wide communities via large-scale media campaigns of 500 to 8,000 broadcasts.
Malaria infection poses significant health risks for pregnant women, newborn children, and developing fetuses. Malaria infection during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight, miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth. According to the World Health Organization, insecticide-treated bed nets offer the most effective way to prevent malaria infection during pregnancy. Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) distributes low-cost bed nets for $4 a net, which protects up to two people for up to four years. To date, AMF has distributed 5 million nets and has plans to distribute 6 million more.
Schistosomiasis is a parasitic worm that affects 200 million people worldwide. Of those people, 45 million are women who live with female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), a painful and life-threatening consequence of the parasitic infection. FGS causes genital bleeding, infertility, and increases the chance that a woman will contract an STD infection. In particular, adolescent girls living with FGS often become increasingly vulnerable to HIV infection from their sexual partners. According to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI), the lesions that result from FGS persist into adulthood and remain even after the infection itself is successfully treated with praziquantel. That’s why it’s so important to prevent FGS and other conditions associated with parasitic worm infection in the first place. SCI actively works to prevent schistosomiasis infection in adolescent girls living in Mozambique, Malawi, and Tanzania to protect against FGS and prevent subsequent HIV transmission.
Village Enterprise works to end extreme poverty in rural Africa through a simple and cost-effective model of entrepreneurship and innovation that can launch a three-person business for $250 per participant. They have trained over 146,000 East Africans and started over 36,000 businesses, mostly in livestock and agriculture.
81% of Village Enterprise’s business-people are women. Women are more likely to live in extreme poverty and are generally more willing meet the requirements of the program. Studies show that women will invest 90% of their income back into their families, compared to the 35% men invest. In addition, research consistently shows that women who are empowered through education tend to have fewer children and have them later. Also, birth rates decline as families rise out of poverty.
The Life You Can Save is a movement of people fighting extreme poverty. We hold that an ethical life involves using some of our wealth and resources to save and improve the lives of those less fortunate than us.
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