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Global Effort to Fight Women's Poverty Launched

Dignitaries from around the world gathered in Washington Sunday to launch an ambitious project aimed at ending global poverty among women. VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

United Nations statistics show that women account for 70 percent of the world's poor; that women are owners of just one percent of the world's titled land; and that two-thirds of the world's illiterate people are women.

Women's rights organizations exist in many countries, but now a new group, the Women, Faith, and Development Alliance, has emerged with a global outlook and more than $1 billion in financial commitments. The alliance aims to boost the economic status of women and fight for the changes that will make such improvements possible. Among those taking part in the initiative are Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Queen Noor of Jordan, former Irish President Mary Robinson, and former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell.

The chairperson of the alliance, former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, says women in many countries have made strides towards legal recognition of basic rights, but that progress is not enough.

"Often, even if the laws on the books are changed, the reality in villages and cities has not," said Madeleine Albright. "So appalling abuses are still being committed against women. And these include domestic violence and rape and coerced abortions, ritual mutilations, dowry murders, honor crimes, and even the killing of infants simply because they are female. Some say [that] all this is cultural and there is nothing anybody can do about it. I say it is criminal, and we each have an obligation to stop it."

Albright added that poverty is not a natural condition for humanity, but rather the result of choices that nations and societies make. She said different choices can and must be made so that poverty among women is eradicated.

The Women, Faith and Development Alliance will combine the efforts of dozens of international organizations to combat gender violence, boost educational and entrepreneurial opportunities for women, promote women's health, and improve women's access to justice, among many other goals.