Poverty Affects Women More

Poverty Affects Women More

There are a growing proportion of women in the world for the past four decades who suffer from poverty and that poverty is becoming a problem that affects more women than men. As per report of “the Fourth World Conference on Women”,   more than 1 billion people in the world today, the great majority of whom are women, live in acceptable conditions of poverty. This is found more in developing countries.  The UNDP’s Human Development Report (1995) postulates that more than 70 percent of the world’s poor are women. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) estimates that from 1965 to 1988 the number of women in rural communities living below the poverty line rose more than the number of men. Poverty is particularly acute for women living in rural.

While poverty affects households as a whole, because of the gender division of labour and responsibilities for household welfare, women bear a disproportionate burden, attempting to manage household consumption and production under conditions of increasing scarcity.

Women’s poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities, lack of access to economic resources, including credit, land ownership and inheritance, lack of access to education and support services and their minimal participation in the decision-making process.    As a result, they’re even more affected by unemployment than men because their lack basic and advanced skills, which leaves them even more at risk of poverty. Poverty can also force women into situations in which they are vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

In most of the developing countries, including India, large number of women is engaged in agriculture, primarily the production and processing of food. With male-selective migration from rural areas on the increase, women are often left behind to take care of both family and farm on their own. Migration has placed additional burdens on women, especially those who provide for several dependants. With women-headed households being more prone to poverty, wages are being unfavorable to women in general and access to financial, technical and other support services being denied to them, the poor nutritional status of the rural population is common.  Women receive up to 30 % lower charges than men in casual labour (Gender in Agriculture Source Book by World Bank, 2009).

Women are more severely affected by climate change and natural disasters because of their social roles and because of discrimination and poverty. To make matters worse, they’re also underrepresented in decision-making about climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, and, most critically, discussions and decisions about adaptation and mitigation.

In natural disasters that have occurred in recent years, both in developing and in developed countries, it is primarily the poor who have suffered—and all over the world, the majority of the poor are women, who at all levels earn less than men. In developing countries, women living in poverty bear a disproportionate burden of climate change consequences. Because of women’s marginalized status and dependence on local natural resources, their domestic burdens are increased, including additional work to fetch water, or to collect fuel and fodder. In some areas, climate change generates resource shortages and unreliable job markets, which lead to increased male-out migration and more women left behind with additional agricultural and households duties. Poor women’s lack of access to and control over natural resources, technologies and credit mean that they have fewer resources to cope with seasonal and episodic weather and natural disasters. Consequently traditional roles are reinforced, girls’ education suffers, and women’s ability to diversify their livelihoods (and therefore their capacity to access income-generating jobs) is diminished.

The risk of falling into poverty is greater for women than men, particularly in old age, where social security systems are based on the principle of continuous remunerated employment. In some cases, women do not fulfill this requirement because of interruptions in their work, due to the unbalanced distribution of remunerated and unremunerated work. Moreover, older women also face greater obstacles to labour-market re-entry.

Child marriage, poor sanitation & health care services, preference to male child, big family, blind faith in social traditions etc. are also major contributing factors in women’s poverty.

Thus, women are more prone to poverty than men. It can be changed by making women favored policy, building awareness among women regarding their rights & entitlements, promoting their education, providing them  affordable health care services and social security schemes. Following are broad suggestions to reduce vulnerability of women for poverty.

·         The productive capacity of women should be increased through access to capital, resources, credit, land, technology, information, technical assistance and training so as to raise their income, and, improve nutrition, education, health care and status within the household.

·         Restructure and target the allocation of public expenditures to promote women’s economic opportunities and equal access to productive resources and to address the basic social, educational and health needs of women, particularly those living in poverty;

·         Develop agricultural, livestock and fishing sectors (Rural livelihood sources), to ensure, as appropriate, household food security and food self-sufficiency.

·         Formulate and implement, when necessary, specific economic, social, agricultural and related policies in support of female-headed households

·          Develop policies and programmes to promote equitable distribution of food within the household, productive assets, wealth, opportunities, income and services

·         Provide adequate safety nets and strengthen State-based and community-based support systems, to enable women living in poverty to withstand adverse economic environments and preserve their livelihood, assets and revenues in times of crisis.

·         Develop and implement anti-poverty programmes, including employment schemes that improve access to food for women living in poverty.

·         Provide access to and control of land, appropriate infrastructure and technology in order to increase women’s incomes and promote household food security, especially in rural areas.

·         Provide women with access to savings and credit mechanisms and institutions

If women are to progress and participate effectively in the economy, they must receive equal education, equal training, in rural and urban sectors and equal dignity and income.  The country cannot achieve progress while ignoring its half population that is women. It is therefore important to consider ways of reducing the scarcity experienced by poor women and the greater difficulties women face in lifting themselves, out of poverty.


About Author:

Manoj Kumar Agarwal is a development professional and he has been working in rural development for last 13 years. The author has expertise on poverty alleviation, women empowerment, community institution building, rural livelihoods, financial inclusion, natural resource management and climate change adaptation.  Presently, he is working in NRLM with Rajasthan State Project Management Unit, RGAVP, Jaipur.


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