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Gender Inequality Causes Poverty

Today, USAID has posted a brief contending that gender inequality is a major structural factor that actually causes poverty. For them to take this stance has massive implications for poor women everywhere.

The document, called "Gender Inequality Causes Poverty," was facilitated by Banyan Global and is available through their site. I did write it, though the document says so only in the footnotes. That's ok. This is not about me and shouldn't be. It's about a big chance to make big change.

I am asking for your help in sharing this post as far and as wide as you can. Here’s why.

In economic development, gender inequality is usually treated as one symptom of a bigger, more basic condition called “poverty.” In this thinking, it’s a coincidence that people who are poor also treat women badly—consistently and everywhere. And, in this view, it’s just happenstance that countries where gender inequality is high are consistently poor, conflict-ridden, autocratic, and politically fragile.

Increasingly, however, even the public knows and accepts a well-demonstrated fact: that better inclusion of women in a country’s economy drives growth. But the next logical question is one that few are ready to ask: if empowering women produces prosperity, does gender inequality cause poverty?

The correct answer to the question is already known. We now have truckloads of data to support the simple, but radical statement that “gender inequality causes poverty.” Gender inequality is a global, structural cause of poverty, as well as of many scourges that accompany impoverishment, including hunger and conflict. Importantly, what these studies also show is that empowering women is the best way to fight poverty.

Few people, even in economic development and policy-making, however, are aware of the massive literature and data behind that radical conclusion. Putting it all together, showing the causality, and enumerating the way multiple unequal practices scale up into widespread poverty, is therefore an important step. And that’s what "Gender Inequality Causes Poverty" does.

Having such a stand appear under the auspices of USAID is even bigger. The international aid arm of the United States, USAID is the largest investor in poverty-fighting programs in the world. Their gender group is well-informed and experienced; they have led on many innovative gender programs. Yet only a tiny slice of USAID’s overall budget goes to support women. The potential benefit to the world’s women of getting more of that massive budget shifted into women’s economic empowerment is huge.

But it gets bigger. USAID is also highly influential. By putting out a case that gender inequality is a driving force behind poverty, this powerful institution will influence the thinking of governments, foundations, charities, and corporations all over the world.

That’s why it is really important that this article be shared as widely as possible.

If you have ever wondered what you, as an individual, could possibly do to alleviate the suffering of poor women, this is your chance.

I am asking you today to put this post out to every social media platform you have. Please also share it with anyone you know who is engaged in international business, government, policy, academics, and you think needs to know about it. Please also share it with people you know are sympathetic and ask them to share it with their own networks. It will be helpful if you will use any or all of the hashtags below.

Something with this much potential to help women is rare. Please support USAID in taking this brave step.


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