from a speech given at the 20th World Population Day in Abuja, Nigeria. Part one of a three part series.
In 2008, it came to global attention that the world economy was experiencing recession. Stock prices were dropping, major companies and government parastatals were crumbling, and bankruptcy became commonplace among corporations and individuals.
In Nigeria, there has been debate on how hard our country has been impacted. But the facts remain: in addition to high unemployment rates and declining stock prices, development indicators in Nigeria are grim. Education, healthcare, and the provision of water and electricity have been dumped into the laps of the private sector, which is more concerned about making profit than providing services. All in the name of cutting costs in response to economic crisis.
We are here today to mark the 20th World Population Day and put half the world’s population squarely on the agenda. Women already make up 70 % of the world’s poor, and with levels of poverty set to increase due to the global recession, they are likely to be further impacted.
Women tend to be hit hard by economic recession because women are most often in temporary and insecure employment. These jobs are usually the first to go in tough times. Women who are not employed depend on their partners.
Women with children generally spend their earnings on making sure their children are well fed, clothed and educated, so when these women lose their jobs, their children lose too. And when food budgets become stretched, many women will go without to make sure their children are eating. Cuts in government spending often hit health and education first. This is potentially bad news for women.
In recessions such as the one we are experiencing, economists advise governments to curb what they consider “overspending”. As a result, governments often withdraw or reduce budgets for social services. This causes women’s responsibilities to increase, with women increasingly burdened by caring for the sick and children.
We are here today to align our position with that of the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, who does not hesitate to point out that while the global financial crisis is forcing everyone to save, investments in women of the world should not be diminished. “When you empower a woman, you empower a family, when you empower a woman, you change the world.”
What we lose when we exclude half of the world’s population from participation, access, control, and benefits is staggering. If these gender inequalities persist, women, their families, communities and countries will pay high cost of slowed economic growth, weakened governments, and over all lower standards of living.
The following body of evidence illustrates why it is essential to respond differently to the current economic crisis – investing in women and girls – it is not only a wise investment, but the right investment.