On the heels of one of the most controversial United States Supreme Court rulings for female contraceptives, we find that issues affecting women’s health are far from being eradicated. In which the legal ramifications surrounding insurance for birth control coverage is the lest of concerns being addressed by modern feminist. Beyond ovarian and breast cancer, super-ceding all ‘find the cure’ campaigns and democratic battle grounds of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 comes the ills of a silent killer. One that’s never mentioned in ‘red meat’ slogans or make the political platforms of Presidential Candidates.
This cruel and heartless villain taking the lives of women answers to the name “Z59.5”.
Women in various parts of the world (including here in the U.S) live life every day closer to the edge of death than ever expected. And thanks to this code, No.Z59.5 listed in the World Health Organization’s A-Z list of ailments (the International Classification of Diseases) it explains the deadliness of extreme poverty.
According to the New Internationalist Issue 270 it’s known as “the feminization of poverty”; that has influenced women’s lives more than any other factor over the last decade. 20 years of statistical data finds that the number of rural women thriving in impoverished conditions has increased by 50%, reaching an astounding 565 Million, in comparison to that of men (with a growth of 30%) equating to about 400 million. In the United States alone, almost half of all poor families are supported by women/single mothers with no partner assistance, and their average income is 23% below that of the official poverty line.
But why are women so much more poor then men one might ask?
Well, everything from cutbacks in international monetary funding for structural-adjustment polices to war have caused this pandemic. And women are the most affected by these factors because they tend to be the primary recipients of education and health services provided by state and government agencies.
According to the World Health Report (Executive Summary: The State of The World Health); Poverty is one of the leading factors that contribute to the lack in baby vaccinations. Its also one of the main reasons why clean water and sanitation are not provided, curative drugs and other treatments are unavailable and why mothers die in childbirth. It’s the underlying cause of reduced life expectancy, handicap, disability and starvation of women and children. As well as a major contributor to mental illness, stress, suicide, family disintegration and substance abuse.
Every year in the developing world 12.2 million children under 5 years die, most of them from causes which could be prevented, largely because of the mothers are poor.
Beneath the heartening facts about decreased mortality and increasing life expectancy (and many other undoubted health advances) lies unacceptable disparities in health. The gaps between rich and poor, between one population group and another, between ages and between the sexes, are widening. For most people in the world today every step of life, from infancy to old age, is taken under the twin shadows of poverty and inequity, and under the double burden of suffering and disease.
Now the real question in regards to changing the feminized face of poverty is
“Where are the Feminist”?
Many wonder if the women’s movement has made any truthful strides towards making a difference for women affected; as the media would have us believe. Besides placing women in high positions of power and global government, there are moves being made towards equality. But these travesties still transpire despite the fact that new laws have been enacted to protect women’s rights.
Now there is good news:
- Great strides are being made to ensure that more girls everywhere are being educated.
- Better health care for women are being provided (assisting with living longer) (and even sometimes doing better than boys)
- Women are living longer, and more children are surviving beyond infancy.
- Access to contraception has increased.
- There are more women in positions of power – though their numbers overall are still pitifully few.
Worldwide, about 6% of cabinet positions are held by women, up from 3% in 1987. And of the 24 female heads of state this century, half have been elected since 1990. More women are working, not only in jobs that were specifically designated as ‘women’s work’, but as bus drivers, miners and even priests in some regions of the world.
But, is this enough?
As many working women are stuck in low-paid, part-time work or scraping a living in the burgeoning ‘informal economy’. Studies show that of 17 less-developed countries, women’s work hours exceeded men’s by 30% yet they still are paid less. Data from 12 industrialized countries found that formally-employed women worked about 20% longer hours than men but are still falling between the cracks in the poverty line.
Even with the positive changes; the welfare of women are still under threat as powerful factions stress the return of women to their ‘proper sphere’ – the home. Sometimes this is couched in terms of religious duty (i.e. “Raising children is a blessing from the Lord”) which continues the alter the acceptance of women in the work place, earning a decent wage. This mentality is often phrased amid dire warnings of societal demise if women continue to try and ‘have everything’. The fact that men already ‘have everything’ is considered irrelevant.
Is having the best for our children a desire to ‘have everything’?
Here’s a few things to consider when speaking of the feminization of global poverty:
Despite many international agreements affirming women’s human rights, girls and women are still much more likely than men to be poor, malnourished and illiterate, and to have less access than men to medical care, property ownership, credit, job training and employment.
Women are far less likely than men to be politically active and far more likely to be victims of domestic violence.
In countries where women are economically disadvantaged and uneducated, population and development programs are more effective when they center on improving the education, rights and status of women.
Childbearing has been women’s chief source of security and status for centuries. This is still the case, especially where women are denied education, reproductive health care, secure livelihoods and equal rights as human beings.
Women in developing nations are usually in charge of securing water, food and fuel and of overseeing family health and diet. Therefore they tend to put into immediate practice whatever they learn about nutrition, preserving the environment and natural resources, and improving sanitation and health care.
Of the 960 million illiterate adults in the world, two thirds are female.
Higher levels of women’s education are strongly associated with both lower infant mortality and lower fertility In poor countries, every additional year of a woman’s schooling is associated with a 5 to 10% decline in child deaths.
Children born to mothers below age 18 are 1.5 times more likely to die before age 5 than those born to mothers age 20 – 34. Yet three of every four teenage girls in Africa are mothers, and 40% of births there are to women under 17.
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