Sunday, July 24, 2011

Women and Poverty

“As more cash and assets get into the hands of women, more of these earnings get into the mouths, medicine, and school lbooks of their children, while at the same time increasing women’s bargaining position and power in the family and community; and their ability to act against violence in the home and in the world. There is no development strategy more beneficial to society as a whole - women and men alike - than the one which involves women as central players.”
- Kofi Annan, Former Secretary -General of the United Nations

When we think of this issue we think of women in places like India, Africa and Latin America. And it is a sad fact that the majority of the poor in these place, 70 %, are indeed women. As Kofi Annan understood, and eloquently stated, there’s no better economic development strategy than helping women out of poverty.

But it's also true that women are a majority among the poor in the United States. One in 6 Americans live below the government-set poverty rate, and most are women: young women with children, and elderly women living alone. Why can't American policy-makers come up with economic strategies to empower these women, and thus benefit society as a whole?

In fact, "if it wasn’t for Social Security, 50% of women over age 65 would be living in poverty." And even with Social Security, 12% of women over 65 struggle in poverty (National Academy on An Aging Society, “Public Policy and Aging,” and Tair Trussel, “Women in Poverty and Not much Social Security to their Rescue,” Mature Living, July 2011, Toledo, Ohio).

This is why advocates for the elderly in our nation are concerned about cuts to Social Security, at a time when the cost of everything, medical care included, continues to rise, while meager Social Security checks decline. Whatever changes are made in Social Security will affect women the most. Poverty increases with age. Surely Obama can’t cave in on this issue. For many elderly women, already living on the margin, it’s a matter of live and death.

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