Women’s issues seem to dominate the political sector lately. Large turnouts at women’s marches, calls to action through social media and an increase in women in leadership positions demonstrate a coalition of support for women to thrive. No matter your political opinion, however, there is no denying that women in the developing world have fewer opportunities than many women in the developed world.
According to the International Labour Organization, “of the 865 million women in the world who have the potential to contribute more fully to their national economies, 812 million live in emerging and developing nations.” Furthermore, approximately 50 percent of the 65 million displaced peoples in the world are under the age of 18. One in four of those young people does not have access to primary or secondary education, and this disproportionately affects girls and women. Gender discrimination in schools contributes to the illiteracy of over 500 million women. Poor maternal healthcare, malnutrition, disease and lack of clean water contribute to the deaths of over 800 women a day in developing countries.
According to the International Monetary Fund, closing gender gaps in the labor market—both in number of employed women and in wage differences—would raise GDP in the United States by 5 percent, in the United Arab Emirates by 12 percent, and in Egypt by 34 percent. And the World Bank estimates that while women represent 40 percent of the global labor force, female labor force participation rates have remained around 50 percent over the past twenty years. This statistic varies wildly depending on the region—female labor force participation is at a low of 21 percent in the Middle East and North Africa and a high of 64 percent in East Asia.
It’s probably safe to assume that if you’re reading Ms., you are actively looking for ways to support increased opportunities for women. But what are the tangible benefits of increased female labor participation, better educational opportunities for girls and an improvement in healthcare facilities around the world? How can we help encourage these opportunities for growth?
According to UN Women, “increasing women and girls’ education contributes to higher economic growth,” and “for every one additional year of education for women of reproductive age, child mortality decreased by 9.5 percent.” Additionally, “evidence from a range of countries shows that increasing the share of household income controlled by women, either through their own earnings or cash transfers, changes spending in ways that benefit children.”
For these reasons and more, I have joined forces with The Borgen Project, a nonpartisan advocacy organization that works to gain support for poverty-reducing legislation. By visiting borgenproject.org, you can learn more about how you can help women and children around the world build sustainable lives. In less than 60 seconds, you can call or email your Congressional leaders and tell them to support global poverty-alleviating legislation like the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, the READ Act and the Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act.
Last year, we saw Congress pass five poverty-reducing bills. This year, by working together, we can ensure that those bills are nurtured and additional bills gain momentum. By supporting women and children around the world, we build a strong global economy, develop new markets where U.S. goods can be sold and traded and encourage security and stability.