Meryl Roux, VGIF UN Representative
On September 24, ActionAid organized a High Level Panel discussion on economic equality and moving beyond ‘a dollar a day.’ The panel was led by Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau, and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. The panelists reported on new goals and targets for the complete elimination of extreme poverty by the year 2030. The vicious cycle of poverty continues to affect millions of women around the world and in many instances their voices are left out when discussing economic solutions. As a result, the potential for progress towards a better future is often untapped. Women need better access to economic discussions in order to share their ideas and help create a more sustainable and equitable world.
The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG). The measurement for progress on MDG-1 is the global poverty line; originally $1/day but recently increased to $1.25/day. Ms. Puri emphasized that $1.25/day is certainly not enough to cover the daily costs of basic human needs. According to the 2012 MDG report, 414 million people live below the poverty line and over 800 million people are chronically undernourished. In addition, the global poverty line hides the 16 million people who go hungry every day, yet are not considered poor because they earn more than $1.25/day. Ms. Puri insisted that there needs to be additional benchmarks to accurately measure and redefine poverty.
Ms. Puri also mentioned the fact that the bottom quarter of the world’s population holds only three-fourths of 1% of global household income, and merely .03% of the average income in the world. However, people in the top 5% have 9 times the average income. The ratio between the averages in the top 5% and the bottom quarter is 1 to 300.
UN Women is pushing for a new framework for the post 2015 agenda. They are aiming for women’s empowerment to be prominent in the proposed sustainable development goals and point out that reducing gender inequality is the ultimate goal to be reached as we move towards 2030. Ms. Puri calls for a focus on three core areas as the post-2015 agenda moves forward: (1) freedom from violence for women and girls; (2) increasing and enhancing their capabilities and skills; (3) giving them access to leadership and participation in household, private and public institutions. These three core areas relate strongly to the work that VGIF has done through the years.
In 2007, VGIF funded a women’s capacity building project in Ghana which provided small loans and training in financial management, healthy eating, and production and distribution of nutrient-rich food. The project increased their leadership and participation in the community as they produced and sold food. By managing their own financial resources, the women were able to utilize the skills they had gained from the training to empower themselves. These women were able to take one step forward in the fight to move beyond extreme poverty through financial independence. VGIF agrees that the post-2015 goals must fight for gender equality and ending violence against women and girls, by increasing and enhancing capabilities and skills, and giving women access to leadership within the home, the community and the country.