The Feminization Of Poverty

By Shanon Quinn
Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho.

The act of closing the gender gap, investing in women and acknowledging their role in human development can bring about worldwide change, Mpule Kwelagobe told the crowd of students and faculty in Washington State University’s Compton Union Building Senior Ballroom on Wednesday.

“Research confirms women reinvest more than 90 percent of their incomes and assets in their children and families,” she said. “So putting income and assets in the hands of women leads to high investment in good security, health and nutrition, education and development.”

The same study shows men are more likely to invest their income into the accumulation of more assets, she said.

“They’ll invest their money in buying that new car or that new tractor, if they’re farmers. This is not male bashing, this is just research that has been proven,” she said.

Kwelagobe, who in 1999 became the first African woman to compete in an international pageant, as well as the first to win, followed up her tenure as Miss Universe with a degree in International Political Economy from Columbia University in New York.

Now she heads the Institute for Endogenous Development, which seeks to strengthen links between agriculture, food security, nutrition, health and human development in Africa. While in Moscow, she also visited the Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute.

“The gender gap is the difference between women and men, especially as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural or economic attainments or attitudes. When economists speak of the gender gap they’re usually speaking of systemic differences in the outcomes that men and women achieve in the labor market,” Kwelagobe said.

Those differences can be significant, even in the U.S.

A 2010 census performed by the National Women’s Law Center showed for the first time in nearly two decades, the number of women in poverty had increased.

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