PM+: EU needs to put its 'money where its mouth is' on development aid promises

Written by Tamira Gunzburg on 13 March 2015 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

Poverty is Sexist, but it doesn’t have to be, argues Tamira Gunzburg.

Last Sunday we marked International Women’s Day. It is a celebration of women and their central economic and societal role. But it was also a moment to reflect on whether women are sufficiently recognised and supported in the other 364 days of the year.

I know this not to be the case yet in Europe – women still earn 16 per cent less than men on average. Although as a woman living in Europe, I am in a much better position than those living in, say, Mauritania. But nothing could have prepared me for the staggering statistics my colleagues revealed to me about just how wide that gap is.

A woman in Sierra Leone is 183 times more likely to die giving birth than a woman in Switzerland. There are as many girls in school in the UK as there are girls out of school in Ethiopia. In France, 97 per cent of women have a bank account, compared to less than seven per cent in Chad.

"A woman in Sierra Leone is 183 times more likely to die giving birth than a woman in Switzerland"

Logical, perhaps, given that these are some of the poorest countries in the world. But compared to men’s situation in developing countries – in this example the number of Chadian men with bank accounts is 40 per cent higher – and it becomes clear that these women in fact face a double whammy: born poor and female.

This situation needs to change—and not only because it is a source of endemic, global injustice. Put simply, poverty is sexist, and we won’t end it unless we recognise the fact that girls and women get a raw deal.

And now for the good news. Investing in women and girls generates a huge bang for the buck and the benefits reach well beyond them, benefiting society as a whole.

For example, providing female farmers with the same access to productive resources as male farmers could reduce the number of people living in chronic hunger by 100 – 150 million.

Spending $5 more per person on key health interventions for women and children across 74 developing countries until 2035 could yield a nine times return on investment in economic and social benefits.
In other words, ending extreme poverty and leaving no one behind will mean unleashing the social, political and economic potential of women.

Thankfully, this year has more potential than any other to do just that. With the expiration of the current anti-poverty goals, in September the world will adopt a new set of goals to take us through to 2030.

In July, all countries will get together to decide on how to finance this fight against extreme poverty. And the whole year has been designated the European year for development.

"The EU must lead by example and ensure that the new goals deliver for the most vulnerable and hardest to reach – often being women and girls"

Indeed, the EU, as the world’s biggest donor and a legislative hub with the potential to positively affect developing countries, plays a critical role in shaping what our world will look like in 2030. That is why the EU must lead by example and ensure that the new goals deliver for the most vulnerable and hardest to reach – often being women and girls.

But it will be even more important for the EU to put its money where its mouth is. Development aid remains crucial for the poorest countries, so we fully expect the EU to recommit to its longstanding promise of investing 0.7 per cent of its collective gross national income in development assistance, and to target half of its aid towards the poorest countries.

Poverty is sexist. But is doesn’t have to be. Neither have to be. This year we can tackle both, and we desperately need EU policymakers, from MEPs to commissioners to development and finance ministers, to rise to the occasion.


About the author

Tamira Gunzburg is the Brussels director of ONE, the international campaigning and advocacy group.

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