How to combat women's poverty?
The fact that half of the world's population lives in poverty today, up from one-quarter 25 years ago, is an "inescapable blot" on the record of human progress, remarked UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his opening address before the 1999 session of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Poverty eradication was the overarching theme of the entire ECOSOC session, held in Geneva from 5- 30 July. The Secretary-General's report on "The role of employment and work in poverty eradication: the empowerment and advancement of women," provided the sub-theme for discussions during the ECOSOC session's opening (high-level) segment, held from 5-8 July. People living in sub-Saharan Africa are the most deeply mired in poverty, with incomes the furthest below the poverty line worldwide, observes Mr. Annan's report. Moreover, the number of absolute poor continues to rise while the "face of poverty" is changing: in the next century, a poor person will more likely be an unskilled female earning low wages and living in urban Africa or Latin America than a male small-holder living in rural Asia. Therefore, strategies designed to combat the discrimination and disadvantage faced by women "must be central to successful poverty reduction," the report says. (excerpt)