POVERTY HAS A WOMAN’S FACE

Kayaye

It is estimated that women represent 70 per cent of the world’s poor, a figure that indicates that women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty. Census figures from 2000 indicated that in Canada women had a poverty rate almost 20 per cent higher than men, earned on average 80% of their salary and experienced higher levels of unemployment.

Statistics consistently show that women are more likely than men to be poor and at risk of hunger because of the systematic discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets. The implications of poverty for women are wide ranging and millions of women are frequently left without even basic rights such as access to clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care and decent employment.

Being poor also means that women have very little protection from violence and that they have no role in decision-making. Throughout the developing world, rural women engage in multiple economic activities that are critical to the survival of poor households. Rural poor women play an essential role in crop production and livestock care and they provide the food, water and fuel their families need. This is particularly the case in some of the poorest and most marginal areas, which are characterised by extensive and increasing male migration. In these areas, agriculture has become increasingly feminised. In 1997, in fact, almost 70 per cent of women of working age in low-income, food-deficit countries were engaged in agricultural work. At the same time, the proportion of woman-headed households continues to grow, reaching almost one third in some developing countries.

Despite the essential economic and caregiving roles that they perform, women have significantly less access to financial, physical and social assets than men do; fewer opportunities to improve their knowledge and skills; and less voice in public decision-making.

Women own less than 2 per cent of all land, and receive only 5 per cent of extension services worldwide. It is estimated that women in Africa receive less than 10 per cent of all credit going to small farmers and a mere 1 per cent of the total credit going to the agricultural sector. The most extreme manifestation of gender inequality and the disregard of women’s human rights is the fact that at least 60 million girls are ‘missing’, mostly in Asia, due to female infanticide or sex-selective abortions. Added to these are an estimated 5,000 women murdered each year in ‘honour killings’.

According to the World Food Programme, 870 million people do not have enough food to eat, of which 98% live in developing countries. Of these, more than 60% of are women. Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the UN, observed that poverty has a woman’s face. This was further buttressed by a woman who was asked by IBIS Ghana about what she understood by poverty. The only answer she could give was “Poverty means woman; the face of poverty is woman.”

Only 30% of major companies in the EU are chaired by women and a Forbes publication about the most powerful ten people in the world only included one woman. Five of the 50 richest people in the world are women.

In Ghana, there are no women in the list of richest people and out of 275 legislators, fewer than 30% of them are women. Poverty has a woman’s face, in Ghana and across the globe.

 

Comic Relief relief

by Zoe

I’ve always loved Red Nose Day. When I was younger, I would stay up until the early hours watching all the amusing shows and the seeing the fundraising total reach ever more incredible heights.

But there’s a dangerous side to Red Nose Day – and this is it: for many people in the UK, the stories about a wee girl in the slums who was born with no legs, and her brother who spends every day picking through broken glass to find grains of rice that he can sell (cue heart-wrenching music) are all that they have seen of Africa.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m going to bang on about it again. Africa is not a country. There are 54 African states, in which over 2000 languages are spoken. There is, of course, incredible poverty in Africa. There are also gold mines. There are mud huts. There are also five star hotels.

If you choose to visit ‘Africa’, you can: climb mountains; visit the beach; see the Pyramids; taste locally made wine; go white water rafting; see elephants and giraffes; visit ancient ruins; see a soothsayer; go to the largest waterfall in the world; ride a camel in the desert; go wind-surfing; sit on a crocodile or visit the rainforest.

It’s true that every picture tells a story. But it’s also true that every picture omits to tell a different story. For example…

…these are both photographs of African children:

Ghanaian lady and childCrying Ghanaian baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…these are both photographs taken in African cities:

Rubbish heap GhanaCairo

 

 

 

 

 

…these are both photographs of African wildlife:

giraffe kenyaboat goat pelican Gambia

 

 

 

 

 

…and these are both African businesses:

nandosMabiley Pork Show Ghana

 

 

 

 

This Red Nose Day (Friday 15 March), please give generously. Comic Relief does amazing work, and we’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the beneficiaries during our time here.

But once you’ve given generously, try to do just one small thing to spread the word that there’s more to Africa than slums and starving children. Tell your friends about something or someone African that has inspired you. Put a positive photograph depicting somewhere or someone in Africa on Facebook or Twitter (#awesomeafrica). Help to spread the word that this continent, which accounts for 20.3% of the world’s landmass, is far more beautiful, diverse and inspirational than you might ever realise if you only watch the sob stories between Rowan Atkinson and Peter Kay’s Red Nose Day appearances.

Why educate a girl?

The Comic Relief-funded project that we’re doing an impact assessment on here at RAINS has a huge emphasis on girl child education.

In Northern Ghana, where we live, poverty excludes many girls from education. There are a lot of organisations like RAINS and Camfed that focus on increasing school attendance by girls, and here’s an amazing infographic from US AID which shows why they bother:

US Aid Education Women girls Infographic statistics

More than one direction

by Zoe

One Direction came to Ghana last week on a tour for Comic Relief. After their visit, band member Niall Horan tweeted “I’ve seen the slums right in front of me! This is no joke! They really need your help! Poverty is real!

A number of Ghanaian celebrities criticised the band’s tweets, including actress Ama K Abrebrese, who wrote: “Your tweet about the slums and poverty of Accra, Ghana was very touching. However, next time, also tweet about the luxury hotel and beauty of the country you enjoyed…  There is more to Ghana, so much more.

Following their visit, E! Entertainment’s site eonline.com wrote “The handsome boy-banders visited the impoverished village of Accra…” The ‘impoverished village of Accra’ is the capital of Ghana, a city with over 2 million residents, several malls and an international airport.

oxfamThis story is just one example of the way in which the media and even charity appeals can actually do harm in terms of public perception. In a recent Oxfam poll, more than half of people immediately mentioned hunger, famine or poverty when speaking about Africa. Indeed, Oxfam believe that the negative view of Africa in the UK is actually harming efforts to raise food aid for the continent, because people turn away from suffering when they believe that it’s so bad that they are unable to make a difference.

So how can we counteract this? Well, here are a few ideas:

  • Show a balanced viewpoint – it’s only fair.
  • Be aware of what you are comparing it to – for me, that’s the UK. And yes, there are things about the UK that I prefer to Ghana (mainly, the ease with which you can buy chocolate). But there are also many reasons why it is nicer to live here (the weather, for example. And the beef kebabs on every corner).
  • Be specific – Africa is not a country. You wouldn’t make a sweeping statement about the citizens of Europe, so why do it in Africa, with its 47 countries? It’s difficult to even generalize about Ghana, where there are over 70 languages spoken, and traditions and even the climate changes drastically if you travel from the north to the south.

We hope that our little blog will show you a balanced view of Tamale – of the good, the bad and the downright funny. And that you will remember while you are reading our views and opinions that they are just that – subjective – and that you will keep in mind that our tales and experiences are being formed in a tiny corner of this vast and extraordinary continent.

PS Honestly, what would you think of Norway if the only images you had seen of the country were the ones in this spoof charity single from Radi-aid?

Is global inequality inevitable?

by Ben

Ghanaian Cedis GHSOxfam recently claimed that the top 100 richest people in the world earned enough last year to end extreme poverty four times over – but is that really the case?

Philanthropy is on the rise, that’s for sure. In recent years a number of high profile US billionaires such as Mark Zuckerberg, George Lucas and Michael Bloomberg have publicly pledged to give away at least 50% of their wealth. Some individuals have gone even further: Warren Buffet has famously pledged to give away 99% of his wealth (est. $52 billion), mostly through the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The Gates name is synonymous with wealth but it is now the leading name in philanthropy. Their foundation has an endowment of $31 billion, of which an estimated $25 billion has come from Bill and Melinda Gates’ own personal fortune. That’s more than double the size of the United Kingdom’s foreign aid budget which sits at a respectable £6 billion.

Speaking of foreign aid budgets, the United States gives away a whopping $52 billion per year to poorer countries. China alone has invested $6 billion in African infrastructure as it looks to develop access to the continent’s mineral reserves, which it hopes will power its own continued economic growth. There is also a huge volume of money spent on institutions such as United Nations, World Food Program and World Bank, as well as countless charities and NGOs around the world working to improve people’s quality of life.

So with all this money flowing around, why aren’t things getting better? The $52 billion foreign aid from the United States is more than the GDP of 173 countries – surely poverty, famine and drought should be a thing of the past? Surely this money should be able to help alleviate people’s misery and fund accountable governments who have the best interest of their people at heart?

Well, lets look at a recent example. Over the last 10 years the largest example of an ongoing reconstruction project has been that of Afghanistan. The United States has spent $100 billion on aid and reconstruction projects alone as part of the effort to stabilise the country. $100 billion on a country with a GDP of $18 billion. Now of course there are some unique problems in Afghanistan such as the ongoing Taliban insurgency – but the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction stated that 85% of the aid budget had been wasted on overheads, corruption or simply poorly managed.

The same situation can be found in Iraq which was described as ‘the wild west,’ with funds being kept as freshly printed $100 bills. During the CPA‘s control of Iraq it was estimated that $8.8 billion was lost due to the lack of oversight. One story tells of an American soldier being asked to help the Iraqi boxing team get itself back on its feet but he gambled the money away. No one knew how many thousands he’d lost because there was no record of what he’d received.

Now I suppose it’s easy enough to discount aspects of those two examples to the unpopular administration in the United States however in both situations even with the countries holding their own free (well…) elections the problems continued. People were quick to their new positions of power and to hand out favours to tribe or family members. Jobs were handed out on a basis of patronage and not qualifications. Entire sects within the population such as the Sunni’s in Iraq or non-pashtuns in Afghanistan were sidelined by more populous and thus more powerful in electoral terms. The Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai’s, brother who continues to hold a position of power despite being consistently linked with the heroin trade.

You see, the one thing that can be only be guaranteed from access to the vast wealth of the world’s top 100 earners is that corruption would prevent the bulk of it reaching those who need it the most. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try; as I pointed out at the start of this article, a lot is being done but the answer is not to simply flood poor regions with money without first developing their own internal structures. Without a strong and independent judiciary capable of taking action against corrupt individuals and a legitimate government in the eyes of the people, we will see no improvement in the situation in the poorer parts of the world; this isn’t something that money can necessarily buy. Circumstances dictate that. The Arab spring is the perfect example of changing circumstances forcing a region’s governments to adapt to the needs of the people.

The other thing we must remember is that humans are by our very nature devious creatures. Even if you could theoretically level the playing field there will always be those willing to work harder than others, those who are smarter, faster, stronger and there are those who are willing to cheat, steal or even kill to advance their own agenda. There are those of us who are apathetic to money and those of us who think that we should never have to work a day in our life and we should be given everything. Inequality is inevitable. The question we have to ask is: at what level are we prepared for it to start? And we need to acknowledge that money is not the only solution.