Transcending difference: The United Nations role.

Author:Saadallah, Sherin
Position:Women Watch

One of the most pervasive challenges of development at the turn of the twenty-first century continues to be poverty. The eradication of poverty is a priority within the agenda of national governments, donors and multilateral institutions, especially United Nations organizations, as well as a host of dynamic actors that have gained responsibility for development, and agencies for specific issues within a globalizing world system. It is beyond need to substantiate that women are among the most hard-ridden by poverty, constituting the majority of the world's poor. This transforms them into the main target group for poverty eradication programmes, strategies and projects. While there is a global commitment to eradicate poverty, the international community should strive to recognize the special needs of women as a focus group and underline the inhibiting factors that are against their being free from the burden of poverty due to gender inequalities and structural factors.

Social values and norms usually set gender roles within a specific cultural context. Thus, gender roles and the levels of inequality vary cross-culturally and from one country to the other. It is the case, however, that some of the basic factors enhancing poverty in general include the limited access to resources--the lower the level of education and awareness, the higher the competition for value services, such as health and nutrition--where women, together with children, figure as the most vulnerable group due to gender differences and inequality. In addition, the way poverty affects women is inherently different from men; hence, in order to bring women out of poverty, it is important to initiate policies and strategies for their empowerment through development that address their specific needs and grievances. Empowerment should be sought as a transformative strategy for poverty eradication.

Poverty, however, is a multidimensional, non-uniform phenomenon. In seeking a comprehensive, holistic definition of poverty that will reflect its multidimensional nature, the human poverty model is based on the "deprivational approach", in contrast to the "conglomerate approach" adopted in human development analyses of poverty. Such a definition would be in line with major international resolutions for action and assessments.

In line with the Millennium Declaration objectives on development and poverty, the "human poverty" approach and index--introduced within the context of the 1997...

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