Women make up an estimated 60 percent of those living below the poverty line, and they are most likely to bear the heaviest burdens. Oxfam helps women and girls worldwide overcome gender discrimination, realize their potential, and become decision makers and leaders in their communities.
In many poor communities, women play dual roles. As providers, they usually work in agriculture or other informal sectors, and they collect food, water, and fuel. As caretakers, they look after the children, sick, and elderly, as well as the home and the family's assets.
However, socially constructed gender roles can put women at a disadvantage in the struggle to overcome poverty. Sixty-six percent of the world’s work falls on women’s shoulders, yet they earn only 10 percent of the world’s income. In the majority of countries, women’s wages are 10 to 30 percent lower than men’s. Worldwide in 2008, nearly 800 million people over the age of 15 could neither read nor write—and two-thirds of them were women
Women are also more vulnerable during times of crisis. In war and conflict, they typically experience the worst atrocities, including rape, forced prostitution, and mutilation. During natural disasters—such as droughts, floods, and storms—women (and children) are statistically more likely to die than men.
Health crises, like the HIV/AIDS crisis in southern Africa, can also have a disproportionate impact on women because of harmful cultural practices and unequal laws and government policies. Women often bear the brunt of hunger and food insecurity as well, since they often reduce their own food consumption to leave more food for other household members. Pregnant and lactating women especially can suffer long-term ill effects from even a brief period of hunger.