A Call to Action for Women and Families in Poverty

By Alanna McCargo

During a recent fundraising event for women and families of domestic violence I listened to the stories of women who have struggled through tremendous emotional and financial stress. I was reminded of how critical the issues of financial literacy, housing support, and jobs are in our country. And while these issues are certainly important for all women, they are critically important for women and families of color.

There is a serious need for more financial counseling, housing programs, jobs training and parenting skills support in our community. Yes, there are a number of amazing non-profit organizations nationwide focused on this fight, but many of them face funding cuts that affect their ability to support families in need. As budgets are increasingly slashed and support dwindles, many of these organizations are seeing spiking numbers of families who need help given the country’s current economic and unemployment crisis.

It is now, as the demand and the need are highest, that we are seeing less public support and government aid for these community-building efforts. What is wrong with this picture?

Statistics show that women are typically less prepared than men to assume the financial responsibilities as head of household.  This should not come as a surprise. Historically, the focus on educating young girls about budgeting, housing, credit, and finances is lacking. We now live in a world where women “head of households” are growing, and where non-profit organizations that provide such support for women are needed more than ever. Not only are female-led households growing, they are more likely to live in poverty which is growing steadily, too.

Statistics regarding women and girl head of households from the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW) paint a startling picture about the changing times. Perhaps, most alarming is the fact that we seem to be headed backwards instead of forwards, and government policies are not keeping up with this change:

‘Women and girl heads of household are significantly poorer than their male counterparts. Of families headed by single mothers, 28.7 percent – 4 million of them – live in poverty compared with 13 percent – or 670,000 – of those headed by men. Poverty rates for households headed by single women of color (African American and Latina) rises to 40 percent. Average household income for women-headed households was $22,592 –- just over half the average for all households ($43,130). The difference in household income between married and single parents are significant –- only 5.9 percent of families headed by married parents live in poverty.’

If you are a woman (or man) who is in a position to tackle this issue, I urge you to think about what contribution you can make toward empowering women and girls to improve their financial literacy and to build stronger households for the future.

The first step needs to start with education and empowerment for our young women while they are in school. Ensuring girls have access to services and programs that teach self-sufficiency, financial planning and management, and critical skills needed to lead a household are essential.


Based on the current statistical trend, many of our future women will head households on their own with no male support. Teaching girls and women about budgeting, the importance of good credit, how to borrow wisely, and how to save and build wealth for themselves and their families is critical.

You can help by reaching out in your community to non-profit organizations that support women in need. If your community doesn’t have such an organization, create one! If you are financially able, consider how you can donate directly to support a program in your local area or through your church. It is time that we start to take matters into our own hands and begin building a brighter future for the women and girls of this country. At the end of the day, this will create stronger families. Our role and our voice at this very moment in time is vital and our families and communities need us.

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