Poverty is sexist: African celebrities ally to kick poverty out of the continent

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice.” – Nelson Mandela

From 2012 to 2014, one in every nine person in the world suffered from chronic undernourishment; that is about 805 million people of the 7.3 billion people in the world. 791 million of these people live in developing countries, that is, one in eight, of the population of developing counties.

What more could be the cause of hunger and undernourishment if not poverty?

Globally, over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. This accounts for about 80% of humanity living on less than $10 a day. With Africa as home to a majority of the poorest countries in the world, the continent occupies a great percentage of these statistics, no doubt.

With such alarming statistics, can poverty be eradicated from the world? This is the lofty challenge ONE has embarked on; to eradicate extreme poverty across the world by the year 2030. ONE is an international campaigning and advocacy organization that seeks to fight extreme poverty, especially in Africa, by influencing policy change. To effectively do this, the organization takes the route of women empowerment because ‘poverty is sexist’.

Announcing the remix of ‘Strong Girl’ in a press conference held in Lagos on Friday the 28th, top African celebrities – Omotola, Selmor, Waje, Banky W, D Banj, and Diamond, with Sipho Moyo and Irish singer Bono of U2, say music is an active tool to promote women empowerment and drive the campaign.

But how is poverty sexist?

WAJE – Poverty is sexist because poverty has a female face. The most disadvantaged in any community is the woman; maternal death cases are high, when there are insufficient funds, boys are favoured over girls to be educated. And women are deprived their right to inheritance. I once met an Egyptian woman, who dressed as a man for about 20 years so she could farm, after the death of her husband to make ends meet. So it is sexist.

Waje Credit - Hadassah Egbedi
Credit – Hadassah Egbedi

D.BANJ – In the music industry for example, it’s twice as hard for a woman to come in. A lot is considered before a female is signed on to a label … Also you have to fight sexual harassment as a woman. Years ago, female musicians were few, but today, there’s an increase. And being on the same platform with men means a growth in the industry, which also means an increase in revenue, and consequently the prosperity of the nation. So, I’m excited, and I believe this would work.

D Banj Credit - Hadassah Egbedi
D Banj
Credit – Hadassah Egbedi

The role of the government?

SIPHO – This campaign was joined by over a million African citizens who signed the petition. Through that petition, 54 African countries signed a strong declaration in favour of women and girls, which includes the Nigerian government. We met with President Buhari when he was in Johannesburg for the summit. The next step is ensuring that those commitments translate into local policies, local laws and local budgets.

Sipho Moyo Credit - Hadassah Egbedi
Dr. Sipho Moyo
Credit – Hadassah Egbedi

SELMOR – We are campaigning to reach out to the government to make policies to favour women, or effectively implement policies that are already there. The government is very crucial in this campaign.

Selmor Credit - Hadassah Egbedi
Credit – Hadassah Egbedi

In terms of women empowerment policies, what sector should the government focus on?

BANKY W – Education. The government should make the education of every child a priority. Knowledge is power they say, if our youths are not educated, what then is the future of the country? Every child should have free primary and secondary education, even tertiary too. I was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to study Engineering in a fantastic school in the US. We should have those kind of things. Personally, I have an education scholarship fund that I run, called ‘I Am Capable.’ I pay for university education for people that are deserving and are in need. But I’m just one person, so getting the government involved is really important.

Banky W Credit - Hadassah Egbedi
Banky W
Credit – Hadassah Egbedi

Role as an artist?

OMOTOLA – Everyone loves entertainment. As an entertainer, I understand the power of music and movies. We reach out to everyone. So it’s very important for me to speak out for what I believe in. I believe in female empowerment, so this is about using our voices and celebrity status to reach out to the government to create policies, or make adjustments to existing policies to favour women.

Omotola Credit - Hadassah Egbedi
Credit – Hadassah Egbedi

Sexism exists all over the world, but predominantly in Africa. Here, the barriers that are stacked up against women are structured – social, cultural, political, economical, and legal. “A woman giving birth in Africa, is 100 times more likely to die in child birth than a woman giving birth in other part of the world. It’s important that government budget be targeted at the health sector, that’s where women are suffering the most,” Dr Moyo told Ventures Africa. “The same thing in education. For a family that has limited resources, the boy child is more likely to be sent to school than his sister. When it comes to inheritance, the girls are left with nothing, while the boys get everything. Women don’t inherit anything when their husbands die.”

According to Dr. Sipho Moyo, women should be empowered in every sector. Knowledge is power. An educated woman is an educated nation, and it transcends generations. Through music, ONE is taking women empowerment to the global stage, and eradicating poverty in harmony. Waje says, “When we sing together, we sing louder. And when we sing louder, our leaders will hear us.” The timing for the remix of the campaign anthem is strategic. The new Global Goals for Sustainable Development will be signed next month by world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.  These new goals will define the next chapter of global development. If world leaders put women first, this could be the generation that ends extreme poverty.

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