The Economic Cost of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and the Feminization of Poverty

16 Days of Activism

Reports by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have found that violence against women and girls is associated with lower economic activity, development, and growth. These findings point to the relationship between poverty and GBV. Not only are women more likely to experience GBV in the context of poverty, but GBV also reinforces cycles of poverty. Physical, psychological, and emotional violence that women experience makes it more

difficult for them to achieve or maintain a job. Research from Fiji, for example, shows that high rates of domestic and sexual violence translate into lost staff time and reduced productivity equivalent to almost ten days of work per employee each year. World Bank reports suggest that in some countries gender-based violence was estimated to cost up to 3.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) – this is more than double what some countries spend on education.

The multi-dimensional effect of GBV on the overall health of an economy in the long and short term presents a drain on society writ large. Women in abusive households are more likely to work fewer hours and be less productive, and, in the long term, high levels of domestic violence can minimize the workforce. The feminization of poverty refers to the ways in which women are more vulnerable to the effects of poverty than men, one of these effects being GBV.  This means that while GBV ultimately negatively impacts all of society, women are disproportionately disadvantaged by this cycle of violence and poverty.

While the repercussions of gender-based violence are portrayed by the feminization of poverty, it is crucial to take an intersectional approach that takes into account other factors like age, citizenship, ethnicity, and personal background to provide helpful support to women in all their diversity. As mentioned by Sylvia Chant: "Accepting

that not every aspect of gendered privation is amenable to quantification and that indices will always require gender analysis to tell us about processes, it is vital to start cultivating a broader and more inclusive base for longitudinal comparisons of gendered privation, and to determine whether, how and in which particular forms a ‘feminization of poverty' is evolving.”

How to take action in preventing the feminization of poverty? 

  • Spread awareness that the feminization of poverty is an issue that not just affects women, but also families, the society, communities and countries. 
  • Make, distribute and promote solutions that combine quantitative data, qualitative analysis and accurate and intersectional perspectives.
  • Volunteer for local projects that empower women and girls in all their diversity

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Authored by Rachel Guerreiro, NGO CSW/NY Advocacy Intern and Carla Cordova, Communications Intern