Marginalization and poverty of rural women is a multifaceted problem that calls for a multidisciplinary approach to be addressed amicably. It has its roots in the social economic and cultural settings of the rural areas. The situation particularly paints a grim picture of economic development in the globe given that the majority of the homesteads in the world are increasingly being headed by women. This is so because in many households particularly in developing countries, the husbands are often likely to travel to the cities to look for jobs leaving behind their wives in charge of their homesteads. The women are left to take care of the economic welfare of the households. This means that poverty bites women most as they are left to feed their families especially in developing countries where the families are quite large.
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Marginalization and poverty have thus become common scenarios in rural areas particularly due to the cultural and traditional practices in these areas. In this paper, I seek to examine the causes of marginalization and poverty among the rural women. I will also attempt to propose a raft of recommendations to alleviate poverty and reduce marginalization of women in the rural areas.
Causes of marginalization and poverty among the rural women
Cultural practices and traditions
Due to slow pace of development, many societies in the developing countries still practice anti-developmental cultural practices that are still deeply entrenched in their cultures. These practices tend to conspire with other poverty causative factors to ensure that rural women remain highly marginalized. A majority of these traditions are largely skewed to the disadvantage of women. Some of these practices include: circumcision of women, wife inheritance, polygamy, wife battery and sex abuse. The practice of wife inheritance and polygamy for example marginalizes women in the decision making processes by ensuring they do not have a right to make decisions over their lives.
The cultural practices tend to inhibit the women‘s access to economic resources and services as a result (Rural women in IFAD’s projects, 4). Decisions over their lives and property are made by their husbands and relatives which exposes them to intense abuse. Circumcision is usually imposed upon them which expose them to early marriages and medical complications especially when giving birth. It also further tends to demean them in the society. The predicament of rural women is thus largely determined by customary laws and social sanctions imposed on them by the society (FAO documentary repository Para. 7). This limits the women ability to make economic decisions thus condemning them to marginalization and abject poverty.
The problem of unemployment is particularly rampant in rural areas especially in developing countries where employment opportunities are limited. In such countries women are the worst affected due to lack of equal access to job opportunities. Women tend to be discriminated against in jobs and even when given those jobs are paid less relative to men in the same job groups. The lack of jobs plunges women deeper into poverty by denying them an opportunity to earn a living. This form of marginalization drives them into poverty. They are thus pushed into the realm of housewives in the rural areas while their husbands work in towns. This renders them to living in deplorable conditions hence reducing their economic and social welfare in the society. As a result of lack of meaningful employment, they are left to engage in back breaking tasks in the family farms like tilling, household chores, and occasionally in wage employment in large farming estates to earn a living. This usually has an adverse effect on their health.
Limited access to education
In many rural households, women do not enjoy equal education opportunities with their male counterparts. Some of these communities treat education as the preserve for the boy child thus limiting the access of girls to education institutions. Many times the parents tend to give preference to boys at the expense of girls who are married off earlier at tender ages further marginalizing them. This ensures they play the second fiddle to men in the social and economic arena. The failure to access education denies them an opportunity to build their capacities in terms of knowledge and skills required to be employed and also to engage in the informal sector. These alongside other factors ensure they are confined to poverty. The lack of education also reduces both their economic and social bargain in life.
As a result of cultural traditions and practices, poverty, and inadequate education women are the worst affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in rural areas. Infection rates among women have been observed to be very high relative to that of men. This further exposes them to more suffering due to poverty. Poverty and poor diets combined with the inability to access drugs reduce their ability to work hence condemning them to early deaths. These combined with this stigma associated with the disease especially in the rural areas cause further marginalization of women leading to poverty. Studies carried among the rural women in South Africa indicated that women are affected disproportionately in relation to their male counterparts (Amnesty International USA, 2008). This is because as a result of the gender disparity, they have no control over their sexual lives.
Famine and disease
The rural areas are usually prone to disease and famine which makes women particularly vulnerable as they are the majority in those areas. Their deplorable hygienic conditions and poor dietary habits place them at a disadvantage compared to men. As a result, waterborne diseases, malaria, and dietary diseases are quite devastating to women. Hunger, famine, and malnutrition also cause serious havoc to women because women head their households and are thus left by their husbands to take care of their large families. As a result of poverty, they are economically burdened thus can not afford balanced diet which exposes them to dietary diseases.
Poor accessibility to credit facilities
Due to the cultural settings in the rural areas where women are denied ownership to property, they lack collateral and hence find it hard to access credit facilities from lending institutions. This hampers their ability to invest condemning them to the cyclic constellation of poverty. As a result the marginal propensity to save is very low due to their low productivity. This is a catalyst for poverty among the rural women. Their inability to own property has the effect of marginalizing them in the eyes of men.
Poor organization and underdevelopment of the local market
The local market which is the key source of informal employment in the rural areas is usually disorganized and underdeveloped dealing a cropper to the rural woman. This denies them a source of income and market for their produce which is mainly in form of raw material from farms. As are result, women have reduced opportunities of earning a living thus condemning them to a string of unending poverty. The markets are also usually located far from their homes which makes them inaccessible.
Inadequate access to basic social amenities
Basic social amenities such as hospitals and piped water are inaccessible to women in the rural areas which put them at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in the urban areas. The women sometimes travel tens of kilometers in search of clean water and medical attention. In addition lack of adequate educational facilities hinders them from building their capacity and that of their children. The few ones available are beyond their means due to the poverty. This hampers them from advancing their knowledge and skills. It thus undermines both their economic and social welfare hence causing marginalization and eventual poverty.
The rural areas also lack the basic infrastructure needed to spur economic development. For example, the women face difficulty in delivering their produce in the market as a result of poor roads. The areas are also served with a poor network of electricity which hampers development as a result of lack of energy supply. Telecommunication facilities are sometimes inadequate or unavailable altogether leading to poor flow of information which is a key component to development. Consequently the rural women are shut from the rest of the world and new technologies and products hence take very long time to reach them. This further leads to marginalization.
Gender disparity between men and women
The disparities play an important part in entrenchment of poverty among the women. The change in the family structure as a result of massive migration of their spouses to urban areas in search of better jobs has left women shouldering additional burden of providing for many dependents. This is compounded by lack of equal opportunities to economic resources between men and women. As a result, women have been placed at the receiving end of economic turmoil resulting to their heavy devastation. The disproportionate increase in poverty among women in rural areas in comparison to men reflects a feminization of poverty which hampers development of women (NGO Committee on Education, Chapter IV, Para. 1).
Recommendations to ease marginalization and poverty
Policy legislation should be enacted to allow women to take an active role in economic development. For example, it should be in a way that will enable them to borrow against their collateral hence enabling them to participate fully in investment activities along their male counterparts. This will help greatly alleviate poverty among the women. In addition to preventing marginalization of the women, the law should ban archaic traditional practices like wife inheritance, female circumcision, early marriage, and polygamy. All these tend to lower the position of women in the society which prevents them from advancing their social and economic goals. The law should also be able to protect women from sexual abuse and harassment which will have the effect of preventing their marginalization.
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Promotion of girl child education
This will go along way towards empowerment of women by impacting knowledge and skills necessary for advancement of a good life. When women are educated they are able to decide their own destiny, make informed decisions, lead a hygienic life, and observe balanced diets. This leads to an improvement of the social and economic welfare of their households as a whole. Besides this, they are able to engage in gainful employment and also productive investments. Their families tend to live better quality lives as opposed to less educated ones.
Provision of social amenities
Provision of social amenities will help improve the social welfare of women in the rural areas. For instance, provision of accessible medical facilities will help reduce maternal deaths, child moralities and general improvement of women’s health status. This will help empower them further thus allowing them to participate at a larger extent in economic production hence helping alleviate poverty. In addition it will help them escape from marginalization. Education which is one of the key social amenities will ensure women are empowered to participate better in the social setup.
Provision of infrastructural facilities
This will help greatly in uplifting the stature of women in the rural areas. Such facilities as roads, electricity, and telecommunication networks will have been observed to have a very large multiplier effect on the lives of women. This will help open up the rural areas to economic development and hence creating employment opportunities for women. This will have an effect of increasing their quality of standards of life in the long run and thus contributing heavily towards alleviation of poverty in the rural areas.
Provision of affordable and accessible credit facilities
Easing the conditions of acquiring credit facilities will help spur economic activity among women in the rural areas. Microfinance in particular has been singled out to have a very positive impact on development of the rural areas. The resultant micro enterprises usually create a sizeable amount of job opportunities for women hence helping uplift their economic and social standing in the society. The employment opportunities also create some form of economic independence from their spouses which helps boost their household’s income. These then help ease the instances of poverty among the rural women.
Initiation of agricultural based programs
Since most of the rural women depend on agriculture, any project aimed at increasing agricultural production to ensure food security is guaranteed to these women is welcome news. This can be achieved through investment in the supporting framework e.g. physical infrastructure that is inclusive of roads, dams and water supply, and institutional infrastructure that includes marketing organizations and cooperative unions (4th World congress of rural women 4).
Improvement of production technology
Provisions of cost effective and appropriate production technologies will help to evolve alternative methods of production that are higher yielding than the traditional ones. The modern scientific techniques in farm production will help increase the output per amount of input hence helping emancipate rural women from poverty and enhancing self reliance. The governments will thus be required to play an important part in facilitation of technology transfer to the rural areas so as to benefit the rural women.
Prevention of HIV/AIDS
Preventive measures will have to be instituted to curb the spread of the pandemic. Other measures shall have to be put in place to ensure that antiretroviral drugs are accessible at affordable rates so as to ease the effects of the disease on the rural women. This will ensure their productivity is increased due to the improvement of their health statuses. Further spread and new infections will have to be checked through careful monitoring and institution of preventive measures to check the spread. To do this the government and other stakeholders will have to ensure availability of counseling and testing centers, awareness programs, and availability of contraceptives at affordable cost to women.
Reduction of gender disparity between men and women
The long existing social economic disparities in power sharing must be addressed if any meaningful economic goals have to be achieved (NGO Committee on Education Chapter IV, Para. 1). The government should formulate reasonable micro economic policies to address the rapidly changing trends in order to rescue women from the growing poverty. Women ought to participate fully in equal capacity as their male counterparts in the formulation of macroeconomic policies. This participation will ensure that they have sufficient access to resources and economic opportunities which will enable them to achieve sustainable livelihoods.
Poverty and marginalization of women is a multidimensional problem that calls for a multidisciplinary approach to mitigate. All stakeholders need to be involved alongside women who are the main stakeholders. Alleviation of poverty among the rural women will call for equity in distribution of resources and greater access of women to educational facilities among others (Obeng 5). There is need for concerted efforts among the stakeholders to avail accessible competitive markets, rapid investment in physical and social amenities and ensure a stable microeconomic sector development in order to ensure sustainable economic growth and reduction of poverty among the rural women (Khan 1). The policy frameworks of individual nations also ought to be repealed to enable increased participation of women in economic development. Antidevelopment cultural and traditional practices and gender biases that are a big impediment to the development of the rural women also ought to be addressed amicably in order to eradicate marginalization of the rural women.
Amnesty International USA: South Africa: Rural women the losers in HIV response. Press release. 2008. Web.
FAO documentary repository “Asia and the Pacific region: Rural women’s equality challenges”. Regional office of Asia and the Pacific. Not dated. 2009. Web.
Khan, Mahmood, Hasan. “Rural Poverty in Developing Countries, Implications for Public Policy: Key Policy Components Needed to Reduce Rural Poverty”. 2001. Economic issue, no. 26. Web.
NGO Committee on Education. “Beijing platform for action: Strategic objectives and actions”. UN Documents. 2009. Web.
Obeng, A. S. “Women and Rural Poverty”: A Case Study of Kwawu South District of Ghana. African journals online Vol. 10, No 1 (2002). Web.
Rural women in IFAD’s projects: Women in the rural economy. 2009. Web.
4th World congress of rural women. “United in our diversity: Working together towards the total emancipation of rural women from poverty and hunger”. Agriculture Land Affairs. 2007. Web.