These children die needlessly from hunger, treatable illnesses and a variety of preventable diseases, but even if they manage to survive past the age of five they still run the risk of premature death. Young boys are often forced to join militias where they learn to kill, young girls become victims of sex trafficking and children of all ages are vulnerable to landmines. And even if a child does manage to survive to adulthood the lack of educational opportunities ensures they will be trapped in desperation for another generation. The heartaches and frustrations endured by mothers in extreme poverty are endless.

Women who are struggling at this economic level are treated like property. They are not given options or choices. Their lives are not their own. They are forced to serve those who regard them as little more than objects. This is morally wrong. A woman has just one life the same as a man, why should she be forced to live it under the domination of someone else? She should have complete control over her decisions and her future.

Women trapped in extreme poverty are deserving of the same tolerance, recognition and consideration afforded to those in higher economic classes. Just because you are poor doesn’t mean you should be mistreated. It doesn’t mean you should be exploited and it certainly doesn’t mean your life should be put at risk. Whether you are a woman living comfortably in the West or a woman struggling to keep her children alive against overwhelming odds on the African continent, you still deserve the same basic human rights that we all believe we deserve.

A woman should not be forced to watch her young child die because she has no medicine to give her. She should not have to starve herself in order to give meager scraps of food to her son. She should not have to live in fear that a mosquito will bite her young daughter and infect her with malaria. Motherhood should not have to be a constant struggle against death. The strain and exhaustion of fighting everyday without let up to keep your family alive is too much. No one should have to live under this kind of unrelenting pressure, and yet they have no choice. This is the life they are forced to lead because of conditions beyond their control.

Women are particularly at risk during times of war. Armed conflict brings out the very worst behavior in mankind. War provides the cover that allows men to act in ways that would be illegal during peaceful times. Their brutality towards females can be horrifying. Sadly, women are easy victims because they are often left alone to raise their families after their husbands are killed during the fighting. Armed conflict produces refugees by the hundreds of thousands, most of which are mothers and their children. After fleeing their homes with only the possessions they can carry, they are forced into huge over populated camps that become breeding grounds for disease and illness. Unfortunately, war adds a grotesque level of suffering to the lives of women who are already struggling to keep their children alive.

Women in extreme poverty carry a crushing burden as they try to care for themselves and their family under impossible circumstances. When they suffer and die just because of where they live or because of the economic conditions they are forced to try to survive in, it is a sad reflection on all of us…It does not have to be this way. Those of us in wealthy nations should be sickened by what happens to women in third world nations. We should be rushing to their aid, instead of rushing to the mall or the golf course.

Until we acknowledge the fact that women everywhere are entitled to the same level of respect, personal freedom and the ability to determine their own future, the mothers and wives locked in the unrelenting grip of poverty will continue to suffer unfairly. We must be their voice. We must bring the plight of these women to the attention of world leaders. We must enforce existing laws and write new ones to protect them. We must provide the aid that will transform their lives and save their children. We owe them this much.





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