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Feminization of Poverty – A Grave Social Concern Essay

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Updated: Oct 13th, 2021

Rapid and radical socio economic and political reformations down the ages have witnessed substantial developments in civilizations. Yet, there remains a social grievance which has contributed largely to being a silent killer – most ruthless and has caused more sufferings to people than anything else on earth. Writing for New Internationalist Issue 270, vander Gaag has observed that, ‘Beneath the rhetoric of ‘post -feminism’ and ‘equality between the sexes’ lies another, more sinister phenomenon’. She further states that, “It is a code listed in the World Health Organization’s A-Z of ailments, the International Classification of Diseases. It stands for ‘extreme poverty.’ ‘In the jargon it is known as ‘the feminization of poverty.’ (Gaag der).

This has derogatorily influenced women’s lives, globally, more than any other factor over the last decade.To trace the origin of the jargon, Sara.S Mc Lanahan has recorded that, ‘In 1978, Diana Pearce, a visiting researcher at the University of Wisconsin, published a paper noting that poverty was becoming “feminized” in the U.S.’ (Mc Lanahan & Kelly). This phenomenon, observed in the U.S in 1970, states that female headed households accounted for a growing proposition of those below the poverty line. In a study carried over 20 years up to 1990 the number of rural women has gone up to 50%, a shocking 565 million women of the world population.

The above statistics has not seen a favorable trend in the present years, though there are shades of differences in the mentality and reaction of women to their own cause.

Moghadam, in his research on The Feminization of Poverty and Women’s Human Rights has observed that the three contributing factors which constrain the development of women are ‘the growth of female headed households, intra – household in equalities and bias against women and girls and neo liberal economic policies including structural adjustments and the post socialist market transitions.’ ‘Its visibility is deep- rooted in demographic trends “cultural” patterns and political economy.’ (Moghadam, 2005). Women among the poor suffer doubly from the denial of their human rights – first on account of gender inequality, second on account of poverty.

A through study into this persistent problem reveals a dismal picture as the root cause to the social evil is society. Men often leave their homes in search of jobs resulting in female headed families. Divorce, low productivity, a deteriorating environment, single mothers, the economic recession of the 1980’s, “welfare reforms” are the factors in turn exacerbated by intra household inequalities which lead women unprepared for and especially vulnerable to socio -economic downturns, changes in martial status or natural disasters. Women in both the developed and the developing countries undergo severe impoverishment due to negligence by social organizations and feminist organizations.

The scenario in the developed countries is far from being pleasant. Low salaries, divorce, single motherhood are the leading factors for economic bankruptcy. This could be due to lack to previous work experience, low education attainment and is often supported by meager or unavailable child supports. Divorce is the primary factor that has left many women vulnerable to highly exploitative conditions.

Women in the developing countries suffer from partial education, absence of employment skills and experience, lack of property and income, tendency to have larger number of children, divorce, abandonment and widowhood. Females locked into a patriarchal family situation are denied women’s and girl’s basic rights. Family laws as well cultural norms are restraint to women seeking employment or staying in a job within the country or outside. Many women are stuck in low paid jobs, part time work, doing more housework and child care as well. Life at home for many women still means drudgery, even violence and rape within marriage. In countries like India and Afghanistan, female households are considered inferior and are often underestimated!

Among the under-developed countries Kenya and Namibia account for the highest female house holds (FHHs) -70% and 40% respectively and the highest absolute poverty is Kenya contributing to 52% of global women population. The situation of the women in these countries is certainly far more pathetic and pitiable – beyond human thought.

It would be wise and appropriate to struggle against poverty and for human rights.

Realization of women’s human rights and their empowerment remains the key ingredient to an amicable resolution to this end. Well-designed social patterns, programs for distribution of lands, training sessions, employment opportunities, access to housing, child care facilities, reform of discriminatory laws and social welfare schemes are to be strengthened. Cultural, legal and labor market constraints on women’s social and occupational mobility, unequal distribution of resources should be lifted and effective long-term antipoverty strategy, enhancement of women’s entitlements and capabilities should be considered.

Works cited

Gaag der, Nikki van. Woman – Still Something to Short About. New Internationalist Issue 270. 2008. Web.

Mc Lanahan, Sara S, and Kelly, Erin L. The Feminization of Poverty:Past and Future. Network on the Family and the Economy. 2008. Web.

Moghadam, Valentine M. The Feminization of Poverty and Women’s Human Rights. Social and Human Sciences. 2005. Web.

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