Empowering women starts with the belief that women have the same social, economic, and political power that their male counterparts are privileged to have throughout the world. The belief that a women’s autonomy is somehow infused with the men that share their lives is a belief of a generation come to pass; a belief that belongs firmly in history; a belief that has only harmed the progress of women and girls and universally impeded our ability to address the world’s most pressing issues. Poverty, today, persists because of this gender inequality. This is an idea that is not new to the world’s call to end poverty. A 2007 UNICEF State of the World’s Children report states:
Gender equality will not only empower women to overcome poverty, but also their children, families, communities and countries. When seen in this light, gender equality is not only morally right – it is pivotal to human progress and sustainable development.
When women and girls are prevented from achieving educational attainment, society suffers from the loss of their contributions as leaders. When women are held back by circumscribed roles that prevent them from entrepreneurial enterprises in their communities it only hinders economies, both locally and globally. When women and girls experience discrimination and violence in their families, communities, and societies they are unable to reach the full measure of their promise and potential.
The time for mere awareness has passed, it is now time for action. So much of what pertains to action is about changing negative social norms through advocacy, education and legislation. When these mechanisms are at work, a woman’s voice is not only heard but amplified by the support of individuals and institutions that protect and preserve her basic rights. An important part of the work of Alay Foundation is to educate and empower women with medically accurate sexual reproductive health information, both at our coming birthing and women’s center in San Jose and in our educational outreach programs in the barangay that will be starting soon.
The nexus between poverty and family planning cannot be understated. Women who are able to choose the number and spacing of their children are women who are empowered to create families that can sustain themselves; families that are able to provide shelter, education, and hope for all their members. Family planning is not about population control. It is a way for families to achieve something beyond poverty.
On this International Day of the Girl, we take the time to reflect on the problems facing girls globally and commit ourselves to ending gender inequality in order to see a world where girls participate fully in the solutions that will bring about the kind of lasting change that gives us all hope for the future.