Today’s blog post comes from Action on Poverty CEO Chris Murphy. To celebrate International Women’s Day, Chris shares the stories of some the hard-working women she’s met through our projects.
There is lots to celebrate on International Women’s day however, opportunities for women to reach their potential still lag a way behind behind men. The barriers that I face are less than those of my grandmother and I stand on the shoulders of so many. However, all around the world women are still earning less, in Australia the gender pay gap shows we generally earn 16% less than men and that increases to 28% if you look at the ASX listed companies. Unsurprisingly, despite the gains made, women are entirely absent from the Board rooms of 10% of these companies all together. Even in our own industry, at Board and CEO level women are under represented even though in general they make up the majority of our workforce. The UN reports that women do roughly 2.5 times more unpaid work than men, but our contribution is still not valued in the economic sense – it is largely just what we are expected to do.
In our work, the effects of this inequality loom very very large. It is not just our pay-packets, access to childcare or that invisible glass ceiling where we can see the impact. In developing countries girls wake up before dawn and walk miles to collect water, have less access to education, are at greater risk of being trafficked; in some countries they have no legal right to work without their husband’s permission or be protected by the law in the face of domestic violence. They die in childbirth at a rate that is sometimes hundreds of times higher than we would die here. Why? Simply because women’s access to just about everything becomes less when resources are scarce. Why in this day and age is safety, healthcare and education more available to some women and not others? As a global community we still have a lot of work to do and we can make progress by working together to say this situation is not ok.
I am lucky enough to work every day with inspiring women, colleagues and change makers who are all around me all the time. Every day their stories empower and inspire me to do more, to keep trying, to make us all better off. As women we are all diminished if the leaps and bounds we enjoy are somehow denied to other women and we turn away. So despite the work that still needs to be done, and the challenges in making change happen, we know that investing in women and girls is an investment in a family, community and a better future for everyone. So on this International Women’s Day let’s keep working together to make sure we are all better off tomorrow.
Read some of the inspiring stories of the women we work with below:
Tirunesh, Ethiopia: Tirunesh is a potato farmer from the Gamo Gofa district of Ethiopia. A mother of six, she was eager to learn new agronomic skills to help feed her family through the ‘hungry season’ – a food gap of three months caused by low rainfall, land shortages and other factors. Using her new skills, Tirunesh dramatically increased her potato yield, and reduced the hungry season by two months. This amazing woman even built a storage facility for her potatoes, and has saved enough money to send her children to school. Read Tirunesh’s story
Mereia, Fiji: Even in a wealthy, developed country like Australia, women can struggle to reach positions of leadership and have their voices heard. Mereia comes from Bua province, Fiji, where there is a lack of clean water and sanitation. After learning how to repair her village’s water systems, Mereia was elected treasurer of the water committee. In this role, Mereia teaches her community about water conservation and safe hygiene. She says she has noticed a decrease in water-borne diseases, and is working hard to bring flushing toilets to her village to continue improving the community’s health.
Panha, Cambodia: Three in every four Cambodian girls don’t finish school, even though education is free. Panha is a five-year-old girl from the Veal Veng district, where she is attending a Good Start Preschool. These preschools ensure children have the basic literacy, numeracy and social skills needed to succeed later in primary school. This reduces the risk of dropping out. Without an education, girls often enter the exploitative labour market or even fall victim to human trafficking. Panha’s teacher, Ms Sokha, says Panha has developed quickly over the year she’s been at the school. “She is becoming a brave girl who has a strong relationship with her friends.”
Saru, Zimbabwe: Saru and her family live in a simple mud brick hut with no electricity or running water. She and her family used to walk 4km a day for water and were dependent on what they could produce from their small plot of land – mostly maize, beans and nuts. However, after receiving a small loan, Saru started a thriving livestock business that allows her to feed her family and send her two girls, Dorkus and Progress, to school. Saru is a natural leader, and shares her knowledge and skills with the whole community. To me, she is an example of what is possible when you combine opportunity with hard work.
What will you do to help us spread equality? Give a small gift this International Women’s Day to help us provide more opportunities for women through education, training and support services.