Special Report

To Tackle Violence Against Women, We Need to Alleviate Poverty

To end violence against women, the international community needs to identify its contributing factors. And poverty, while often overlooked, is an important one. Low-income women and girls have limited options when it comes to escaping domestic or intimate partner violence. They often cannot afford the legal or social resources that would enable them to leave a violent relationship. From seeking counsel to relocating to a shelter away from their partner, these measures often require both a significant amount of time and also financial means. And when women with limited means choose to spend time on these self-protective measures after encountering abuse, they could miss work and lose their source of income, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and vulnerability to violence.

Women and girls living in poverty are also more vulnerable to sexual exploitation such as human trafficking. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February, Ukrainian prosecutors have found traffickers preying on unemployed or lower-income Ukrainian women, especially those struggling to find work to support their children. Women in need of a source of income to raise their families are vulnerable to false economic incentives offered by traffickers. We have a moral duty to both hold perpetrators accountable and to support women economically.

Governments and civil society organizations can work together to provide customized job search assistance to refugees, especially female refugees. Research has consistently shown that gender may hinder a female refugee’s integration into their host society. And refugees often end up in a foreign country where they have practically no background knowledge or recognized credentials, not to mention access to social networks that can them to access employment opportunities.

Customized job search assistance can help tackle these challenges. Civil society organizations, working alongside local authorities, can help validate foreign qualifications that a refugee may hold, provide interview coaching, and contextualize existing opportunities in the labor market. According to a recent research report released by the University of Oxford, intensive job search coaching in Sweden improved refugee employment rates by 43 percent.

Another way to protect working women from the cycle of poverty and violence is to introduce paid domestic violence leave into the labor market. Working women are often faced with the dilemma of whether to risk their jobs and incomes to escape when faced with domestic violence. Paid family and domestic violence leave programs, through which people are given a few days a year to take paid time off if they experience domestic violence, can be a great help to low-income women. They can take the time to have medical treatment, or to seek out local women’s organizations and legal advice.

Low-income women and girls often have limited options when it comes to escaping domestic or intimate partner violence
Low-income women and girls often have limited options when it comes to escaping domestic or intimate partner violence Image: European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Civil society organizations can help by establishing a pilot program of paid domestic violence leave with local businesses, which will help raise social awareness and government interest. Australia’s paid domestic violence leave, which was adopted nationally earlier this year, began as a small-scale pilot program a decade ago. A paid leave program, implemented on a local scale and funded by civil society groups, can show the wider society how it can significantly improve women’s safety.

Gender equality and environmental protection

The link between gender equality and environmental protection, including climate action, is becoming increasingly visible as climate change intensifies. The principal investigator of the UN Climate Change Unit reported in 2020 that women have been living “in the shadow of climate change” for too long. Women make up a majority of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihoods. And when these resources are lost to sea level rise, extreme weather events and pollution, women are disproportionately affected.

To lift women out of poverty, civil society organizations need to push for not only adequate treatment but also the further involvement of women in the process of developing environmental and climate policies. Non-profit organizations help policymakers identify communities affected by environmental injustice as well as female representatives from those communities. International non-governmental organizations can also help by convening a special event that gives women from low-income and at-risk backgrounds an opportunity to address the world and call for greater political commitment.






Tags : Povertyviolence against women
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