UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
Paper 2 – Section C
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women.
(d) Caste conflicts.
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education.
‘Feminisation of poverty’ is a term that was coined in the 1970s by researcher Diana Pearce, who worked on gender and poverty in the United States. The term gained global status at the Fourth United Nations Conference on Women in 1995 and is now used extensively in the debate on international development and humanitarian aid. It refers to the phenomenon that women and children are disproportionately represented among the world’s poor and are more likely than men to live below the poverty line.
FACTORS FOR FEMINISATION OF POVERTY
Women’s higher life expectancy contributes to the increasing number of women over 65 years of age living alone and a substantial proportion of these women are poor. Younger women become heads of households through out-of-wedlock childbearing, separation, divorce, or the decision to live alone while they work and postpone marriage until they consider it appropriate.
Male unemployment, lay-offs, and decline in wages are also crucial correlates of women’s poverty. Such factors correlate with marital stress and violence, separation or divorce, and can make family formation
Ruth Sidel argues that women’s poverty is also the result of ideological and structural constraints peculiar to women. Women socialized to put family obligations first, to see themselves primarily as wives and mothers and seek in marriage and the family their fulfillment as adult members of the society, are likely to neglect or overlook the need to develop occupational and educational skills that will help them
support themselves if they remain single or their marriage breaks up. Women’s domestic activities, in spite of their social, economic, and psy- chological significance, are devalued and time consuming, and interfere with their full participation in the labor force. The domestic division of
labor thus interacts with the sex-segregated nature of occupations to
restrict the economic and educational opportunities of women.
There are many complex and interconnected issues that perpetuate poverty and are a barrier to gender equality, just some of these are;
- Unequal economic opportunities, including access to livelihoods and the gender pay gap
- Limited access to quality education
- Health and nutrition challenges
- Lack of government representation
- Gender-based violence
Studies during economic recessions indicate that job loss and subsequent poverty are associated with violence in families, including child and elder abuse. Poor families experience much more stress than middle‐class families.
Children who grow up in poverty suffer more persistent, frequent, and severe health problems than do children who grow up under better financial circumstances.
Parents who experience hard economic times may become excessively punitive and erratic, issuing demands backed by insults, threats, and corporal punishment.
Homelessness, or extreme poverty, carries with it a particularly strong set of risks for families, especially children. Compared to children living in poverty but having homes, homeless children are less likely to receive proper nutrition and immunization. Hence, they experience more health problems. Homeless women experience higher rates of low‐birth‐weight babies, miscarriages, and infant mortality, probably due to not having access to adequate prenatal care for their babies.
In both developed and developing countries, there has been an increase in the number of female-headed households. Female-headed households that do not have access to remittances from male earners are generally assumed to be poorer than male-headed households. Female-headed households are more vulnerable to increased unemployment and reductions in social and welfare spending.
The feminization of poverty combines two morally unacceptable phenomena: poverty and gender inequalities. It thus deserves special attention from policymakers in determining the allocation of resources to pro-gender equity or anti-poverty measures. If poverty is not being feminized, resources can be redirected to other types of policies.
While accepting increasing numbers of endorsements of the nature that “women not only bear the brunt of poverty, but their empowerment is key to its reduction”, it is vital to ensure that this does not entail women becoming further mired in a situation of disproportionate burdens and unjust demands. Thinking about the ‘feminisation of poverty’ from a more multidimensional vantage point calls not only for increasing women’s access to income and enterprise, but to shore up the public resources necessary for improving the physical environments in which they manoeuvre, while at the same time tackling the unequal gender relations which permeate the ‘private’ realm of households.