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  • Written by Dianne Lowther

Integration and empowerment of women can break the cycle of poverty and discrimination

Judith from Rwanda took out a microfinance loan from VisionFund after taking in her nephew Moses who had been abandoned. By trading fruit and expanding her business, she has managed to feed and clothe Moses and send him to school. Photo: VisionFund.On Friday (March 15), the UN Commission on the Status of Women ratified a declaration entitled ‘End Violence Against Women’, matching the theme of International Women’s Day, which was marked earlier in the month. VisionFund’s Dianne Lowther writes about the place of women in the fight against poverty.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day was “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women.” It was another reminder of women’s central role in society and the hardships that too many women face. The World Bank states that violence can be both a result and a cause of poverty and women and children are among those worse affected.

According to the United Nations, women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty as they are more likely to be poor and at risk of hunger due to discrimination they face in education, health care, employment and control of assets.

Some estimates suggest that women make up 70% of the World’s Poor and headlines, even in developed countries, indicate that many women face wage gaps compared with their male counterparts. Not only are they often paid less but they can also be relegated to unsafe and low salaried work. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, approximately 8 out of 10 women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment.

However when these women are given a chance at engaging in economic development, it can have a hugely positive impact on helping families to climb out of poverty. Aid organisations the world over have marvelled at women’s fortitude and determination to strive for their families and build a better future.

  • Written by Niamh Griffin

Volunteering in Retirement: "People have much more to offer than they realise"

Maeve Bracken with some of the mothers that make greeting cards through the Haitian business that she helped to get started while working as a volunteer. Photo: Viatores Christi	Retiree Maeve Bracken was volunteering in Haiti when the earthquake hit, but she says even that shocking experience couldn’t dim her affection for the Caribbean island.

When Bracken was approaching retirement after over 40 years in the civil service, she knew she wanted to volunteer but wasn’t sure what she could offer.

Speaking on the phone from Tullamore, she says: “I wasn’t a nurse or an engineer. I had many skills but they weren’t exactly what people were looking for. But I felt there was more I could do and it worked out.”

While she was looking into the possibilities, she heard about Mayo woman Gena Heraty’s work in Haiti and set her mind on helping there.

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