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Girls, Women and Poverty

Systematic discrimination against girls and women in the world’s poorest countries will prevent the United Nations from meeting its goals to reduce poverty. Girls and women were more likely to be poor, hungry, illiterate or sick than boys and men. According to Action Aid which produced the report in South Asia women are getting a shrinking share of income as the economy grows. Amid growing concern that the millennium development goals set by UN for 2015 will not be met, Action Aid said a focus on women was vital to put the international community back on track.

Ten million more girls than boys miss out on primary school while African women accounted for 75% of all young people living with the human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS. The aim of universal primary education was being hampered in Africa by the 40 billion hours spent each year by women and children collecting water-equivalent to a year’s labor for the entire workforce of France.

A special session of the UN will be held in September to discuss ways of making speedier progress with discussions centered on four areas: health and education; climate change and the environment; the role of business and trade and growth. The disproportionate impact of poverty on girls is not an accident but the result of systematic discrimination.

On current trends the goal of halving hunger would not be until 2035, 40 countries would have equal enrolments for boys and girls until after 2025 and current progress in cutting maternal mortality rates was less than 1/5th of what was needed to meet the goal. The total number of HIV/AIDS infections in 2007 was 33 million-the highest ever.
According to Action Aid discussions at the UN and this year’s meeting of the G-8 industrial nations in Japan would only succeed if they started with the recognition that the development emergency is first and foremost an emergency for women and girls. The lack of progress on maternal health shows people’s lives are at stake.

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