Gender and Poverty Reduction

Gender and Poverty
Photo: Kayla Keenan/UNDP

Six out of ten of the world's poorest people are women who must, as the primary family caretakers and producers of food, shoulder the burden of tilling land, grinding grain, carrying water and cooking. This is no easy burden. In Kenya, women can burn up to 85 percent of their daily calorie intake just fetching water.

Yet some 75 percent of the world's women cannot get bank loans because they have unpaid or insecure jobs and are not entitled to property ownership. This is one reason why women comprise more than 50 percent of the world's population but own only one percent of the world's wealth.

Equality between men and women is more than a matter of social justice - it's a fundamental human right. But gender equality also makes good economic sense. When women have equal access to education, and go on to participate fully in business and economic decision-making, they are a key driving force against poverty. Women with equal rights are better educated, healthier, and have greater access to land, jobs and financial resources. Their increased earning power in turn raises household incomes. By enhancing women's control over decision-making in the household, gender equality also translates into better prospects and greater well-being of children, reducing poverty of future generations.

Gender equality and women's empowerment is central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Yet, while there are some positive trends in gender equality, there are still many areas of concern. Girls account for the majority of children not attending school; almost two-thirds of women in the developing world work in the informal sector or as unpaid workers in the home. Despite greater parliamentary participation, women are still out numbered four-to-one in legislatures around the world.

Gender equality is a condition for inclusive, democratic, violence-free and sustainable development. This is why UNDP works collaboratively with national partners to:

  • Include women in planning, budgeting, and policy-making processes in a meaningful way;
  • Promote women's and girls' economic rights and opportunities;
  • Address the gender dimensions of HIV and AIDS;
  • Strengthen the collection and analysis of gender-disaggregated data;
  • Ensure that essential public services like health and education, benefit women, men, girls and boys equitably.