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Over the past decades there has been growing concern regarding the growing gap between men and women and men living in poverty. This has come to be known s the feminization of poverty. A notion that that women are more likely to be poorer as compared to their male counterparts. Poverty can be said to be the other side of wellbeing which is not only concern about income, but rather it encompasses the inability to own a piece of land, have access to credit, health care service, quality education, exposure to violence, external economic shock, natural hazard, voicelessness and social exclusion (Yekini, Rufai, Adetola, Akinwole and Ojo, 2013).
Development Assistance Committee (2001) states that poverty comprises of various dimension of denial that is associated to human abilities, consumption and availability of food, health care, quality education, rights, good job, protection and dignity. Richard and Sonja (2008) reports that poverty is not only limited to the inability to have access to material resources, but entails inability to access quality health care, education, quality shelter. Poverty results in hunger lack of health care, sanitation and poor shelter, sanitation and living standards. The causes of poverty range from low income, lack of education, lack of assets, lack of opportunities and lack of an enabling environment for one to improve their welfare.
As a result of the feminization of poverty, for decades poverty has been seen as a women issue . Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India said “you can tell the condition of a nation by looking at the status of its women (Nachiappan and Rajan, 2008). Hence, there have been a lot of critics and contrasting views on the fact that poverty wears a women face (Green, 2010). The feminization of poverty is a characteristics that is common on most of the under developed nation, of which one over two of the world. Population is women who account for 70% of those people living in poverty in the whole world (Maghadam, 2005; UNIFEM, 2013; Chant, 2003). Women make up about 80% of farmers in Africa and with over 40% illiterate women without formal education in Africa (Johnson, 2013). It has been stated that poverty is a multidimensional issue and some causes of this problem affect both men and women while others just specifically affect women more than men. these factors are discussed as follows;
Literature reviews shows that all individuals are perceived to be equal recipients of the income earned by the household. This approach however hides the extent to which women are exposed to poverty at household level. Men generally tend to be head of the household and and consequently decide how income is distributed or utilized. Moreover women in households tend to give up or sacrifice their needs such as clothing, food and personal assets in order to protect their family. As a result women in the household are more at risk of facing poverty than other members of the household.
Poverty is mostly associated with social exclusion. Women living in poverty find it very difficult to participate in the social and political activities of the community. This is because they lack the self confidence due to the negative self confidence created by poverty. Social exclusion not only affects the welfare of women in poverty but also reduces the prospect of these women escaping poverty.
Women unfair access to social, resources and opportunities arises from the demerit situation they found themselves in form of class, race and gender in any given society. Class can be refer to as a social relationship on having the chance to use and possess resource together with means of production, distribution, exchange and consumption of products (Bradley, 1998). Gender has to do with social functions, behavior, hopes and expectation as they exhibit in their cultural and social beliefs, as shown in the interaction between men and women in the communities (Blackden and Wodon, 2006).
Governments often formulate policies aimed at reducing poverty but they fail formulate specific policies aimed at reducing female poverty. There is lack of a gender perspective when formulating policies aimed at reducing poverty. Women’s risk of poverty is linked to their social exclusion, exclusion from labour force and taking part in decision making that affects them. There is lack of gender based policies that encourage creating more better paying jobs for women and create more opportunities for women to take part in the decision making process of their respective communities and a nation a whole. poor governance can also lead to civil war in a state and that contributes to increase in poverty (Mcferson, 2009; Collier, 2007).
There is also lack of good governance in most poor countries that contributes to female poverty. Good governance can benefit and change the welfare of the poor for the better most especially women who are the larger portion of the poor in Africa(Baden, 1999). It is also important to emphasize that poor governance and corruption prevent a nation from developing because those who lack political connections tend to suffer the most. Most opportunities for women are only accessible to those who know people in strategic offices and positions because of corruption. There is also lack of women’s participation in decision making. Over the past decades women’s representation in legislature has improved with women now holding 16% of parliamentary seats worldwide. However there is a lack of a female voice in the political decision making and public arena. In instance where such a vice is present, it is usually to weak to make a significant difference.
Traditional and cultural stereo types have contributed to the division of labour according to gender. This has resulted in stereo types such as women mainly have the responsibility of caring for children and the elderly ,cooking, cleaning and doing household chores. This confines women to working for a few hours or not working at all as they fell to balance a working life and taking care of a family full-time. This prevents women from taking up opportunities to develop skills or take up employment to earn some income, build up assets and a pension.
The issue of time use adds an important dimension to the gender and poverty paradigm in Africa. (Kes and Swaminathan, 2006). “Time poverty” impacts particularly poor women and girls, who are required to contribute time and labor to various tasks and as a result forgo education. (Canagarajah and Coulombe, 1998.) Contrary to the argument (Collier, 1998) that the poor have a lower opportunity cost of time, because of their unemployment and underemployment, African women in rural areas suffer from extreme time scarcity. Not only is time scarcity more severe for women during “normal” circumstances, but it is further aggravated in conflict situations, in which women and girls as young as 10 are forced to handle all the time intensive activities necessary to sustain daily life for the male combatants.
Women are susceptible to poverty due to the nature of jobs that are mostly available to them. Despite the increase in the education and employments rates for women, they more likely than men to work for lower pay. They make up the majority of the workers in the lower wage workforce Women generally especially in low income countries tend to be take up low wage employment. Even across the global women get lower wages compared to their male counterparts. One trend that seems to be consistent is that regardless of their education level, marital status, race or ethnicity women generally dominate the low pay work force. According to Oxfam this will take at least 70 years to close the wage gap. Oxfam further states there 700 million fewer women than men in employment. According to Oxfam 75 percent of women in developing countries work in the informal sector where they do not have contracts, legal rights and social protection.
Women of all races are generally over-represented in the lower wage in jobs that pay less than $10 per hour. A good example is the labour utilised by most multinational corporations such as Nike and Adidas that have factories in Asia that commonly referred to as sweat shops because of their harsh working environment. Most of the jobs in these factories are taken up by desperate young women who get less than $10 dollars and are subjected to work for long hours with poor working conditions. These women are subjected to verbal and physical abuse from the employers and also have to struggle to complete high quotas each day. These women are subjected to inhumane working condition yet the wages they get are not enough to sustain their families. The employers of these women also force them to take birth control pills to prevent them falling pregnant so they do not have to pay maternity leave costs.
This also entails they do not have health care and pension schemes. The wages in this sector are not enough for these people to improve their overall welfare and very few employers in the sector meet the statutory minimum wage set by legislation. This make difficult for most women to escape poverty. In addition women have to perform other unpaid work in the form of household chores, childcare, cooking. According to Oxfam the perform these duties as high as 10 times as men and the value of this work is estimated at $10 trillion which is equivalent to one-eighth of the world GDP.
Another factor is that contributes to feminization of poverty is that employment segmentation. Women are generally classified as caregivers and caretakers whose roles are restricted to cooking raising children, household chores and lower wage jobs such as maids, cleaners, teaching and working in textile factories. This kind of employment subjects women to harsh working conditions and lacks job stability, security and high wages. In addition these jobs do not have social protection in terms of health care and pension schemes.
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