Patriarchy and Female Poverty Abstract Poverty reduction has been since long a major development policy across the globe, owing to the dire consequences of persistent poverty on the developmental health of various countries worldwide. However, amidst the designing of diverse measures for tackling poverty some groups have suffered either insufficient representation or have not been counted at all.
Women constitute one such group who in spite of enduring disproportionate effects of poverty are often treated as those destitute bunches who would feed on anything even the leftovers and hence, we see a lack of political will to upgrade their living conditions. Their historical episode of subordination and subjugation has been largely neglected. At the most a few voices are raised here and there occasionally, which are normally muffled by the torrential dominance of the development planners and implementers.
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This paper is an attempt to study poverty in women by exploring the influences of patriarchy on the poor conditions of women. Everywhere in the world there are ample evidences to prove the fact of universal sub-ordination of women. Though the forms of suppression have varied according to time and space in history but in essence their outcomes have been similar. The notable fact among all is that the sub-ordination follows even now which is starkly reflected in the living conditions of women today in many parts of the world especially the South Asia.
Overall the number of poor women has been rising considerably as compared to men in the developing countries (Beijing Platform for Action, 1995). Along with the rising number of poor women in the recent times we have also witnessed a simultaneous rise in poverty alleviation programmed and policies namely the Millennium Development Goals like eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and establishing gender equality. But somewhere they have been failing to bring about the desired impact; the conditions are even becoming worse in many countries.
This calls for a major shift in policy which is more conceptualized and designed in a participatory manner wherein women are allowed to voice their opinions and hence can talk on behalf of themselves rather than being subjected to any whimsical decree. This paper, thus seeks to answer a few questions like: * What is the present developmental status of women as compared to men? * Is patriarchy as an institution largely responsible for poverty in women? * What has en the role of poverty alleviation programmed in reducing poverty in women? * How can we improve the poverty situation in women?
Are women poorer than men? To begin with we will have to first analyze the status of men and women in our society and explore if women are at a more disadvantageous position even amongst the poor households. On the positive side we see that India has largest number of professionally qualified women in the world ranging from doctors, engineers to unskilled workers and manual laborers. India harbors more working women than the United States but in spite of all these achievements women in India still remain economically, socially, politically and demographically weaker than men.
However, across the nations people have come to a consensus that women disproportionately bear the burden of poverty. Poverty reduction was high on agenda in Indian’s development Policy since independence but even after the passage of more than arrears of development planning process in this country the pronouncements in our constitution seems to be only marginally satisfied. A quick look at some of the vital statistics will itself make clear the existing status of women in this country. Beginning with the human development indicators we find that while the average life expectancy of men in India is 62 years for women it is 60 years.
The sex ratio is highly imbalanced with 933 females per thousand males and there are states in this country which has still worse sex ratios such as those of Delhi Harlan and Punjab where the number of females range in sass per 1000 males. The average literacy rate for women is abysmally low at 54. 16% while for men it is 75. 85%. In some of the states like Briar the literacy rates of women are unthinkable; it is as low as 33% which meaner that Just a third of women from this state are literate. The national figures for gross enrolment ratio (EGGER) for boys are 58. % whereas for women it is still as low as 47. 38%. The EGGER figures are already dismal and in addition to that we see that the drop-out rates further worsens the situation wherein again girls drop- out in a large number than boys for instance it is 81. 5 for girls whereas 78. 3 for boys. The Infant Mortality Rate for girls is again higher than boys. It is also said that women and children account for 73% of the population below poverty line. In India 18% more girls die than boys before attaining the age of five. Source: census of India 2001, Ministry of Human Resource Development) A study (Kumar’, V. Amp; Sings, R. K. P, 2007) on gender and poverty in one of the poorest state of India that is Briar has concluded that: * The probability of experiencing poverty was more in those households which have more chronic energy deficient (CEDE) persons which imply that higher the percentage of CEDE persons in a household higher would be the probability of the household remaining poor. * Incidence of illiteracy and non- enrolment in schools has been reported in poor households.
It is again established that the more the educated members in a household the probability of their moving away from poverty was higher. Participation in social organizations had an inverse relationship with poverty. The striking feature of this conclusion was that higher proportions of women were chronically energy deficient than of males in the rural areas, illiteracy levels were high in females of all the age groups and it was again females who participated far less in the social organizations.
Thus we now get the picture of economic, social and political deprivation of women which collectively acts as an impediment in the way of women’s progress and development. Hence we can conclude that poverty is not tantamount to lack of financial resources but is a argue lived reality that men and women experience differently. Poverty thus, does not always implies income deprivation and inability to meet basic needs of life; it also refers to lost opportunities of making a choice, having a say in decision making, losing capability to achieve life’s goals.
An attempt to address this problem with a common strategy for men and women would only bring in failures as the causes of women’s poverty are different from men. Poor is not a homogeneous group, specifically women, they are differentiated by class, caste, race, nation, etc and their choices and opportunities are to a great extent determined by their affiliation to these categories. Patriarchy as a major reason of female poverty Gender as a concept is extremely vital to the understanding of how societies assign different roles, responsibilities, resources and rights between men and women (Tactual, E.
G. , 2000). These historically followed normative prescriptions have now taken roots and have been deeply ingrained in the institution named as patriarchy wherein men have continued to exercise control on women and women in turn have internalized the feeling of sub-ordination and accepted it as a way of life. Patriarchy s an old concept and has been explained by a number of social scientists in the past. The earliest explanation is given by Weber who used the term to explicate a system of government where men ruled the system through their positions of being head of the households.
Later radical feminists enhanced the meaning of the term by implying the term to entail dominance of women by men. The dual system theorists have identified patriarchy as another system existing alongside capitalism. Wally defines patriarchy as a system of social structure and practices whereby men oppress dominate and exploit women. Central to the understanding of patriarchy is ale dominance. We now look at how the male dominance has hindered women’s progress and development. * Parenthood and family structure Parenthood is essentially tied to women as their inherent responsibility owing largely to their reproductive function.
Female parent’s are accepted in the role of care-givers to their children which restricts mobility of women mainly in the labor market. Women who choose to slightly digress from this prescribed role are treated with contempt in the society and are often blamed for being an irresponsible parent whereas the male parent is hardly held accountable for the same responsibility. They ant afford to get into high-paying Jobs which require prolonged working hours. In India this is true for the urban higher class’s women who can either choose working or withdraw from work.
But in case of rural poor women they do not enjoy the luxury of alternatives and hence choose to enter the informal sector with low paying Jobs and without any protective environment for the child and the mother since it is their only meaner to survival. * Occupational sex segregation Women as given the status in India already fall short of a number of opportunities for employment and in addition to that occupational sex segregation further pushes omen particularly female headed households and single women in the poverty trap.
Some of the Jobs are simply termed unfit for women while some demand their reproductive right to be withheld. At other places their promotion or permanency is deliberately delayed fearing their inconsistency and inefficiency in work. * Access to resources and economic opportunities In India women account for 60% of unpaid family workers (in economic work) and 98% of those engaged in domestic work (Chary, M. & Chimer, P. 2005). This clearly reflects that women have actually very little scope of work outside the mommies arena.
The obvious reason lies in the societal norm where women working outside the household brings dishonor to the family and is hence condemned. It has other implications too; one being the non accounting of the women’s economic activities and the second is the self restraint that women themselves observe from violating this norm. Apart from this lack of required skill training and educational qualification which (a direct consequence of male domination), also restricts women from diversifying their occupational status which again owes to male decision making s women have no say on their preferences and choices.
Next women rarely have access to economic opportunities and the appropriate resources to enter into a viable production system that ensures the basic meaner of survival. A woman seldom owns land in her name or even property for that matter; even if they do the actual owners are their male counterparts. The land is not ours, the forest is not ours, the water is not ours??what then is ours? They either belong to the government or to men. What do we get when all these are taken away? ??(Absentia ABA, a displaced woman from the Barge Dam area of Madhya Pradesh)
In spite of putting in more hours of labor than men their work is often discarded by terming it as ‘non-economic activity. In India, women reported as mineworkers in the census are found to be spending up to four hours per day picking, sowing, grazing cattle, or threshing; or working as domestic servants for as many as 8-10 hours per day Cain and Chain, 2000). This historical recognition of productive work is following from the ideological roots of patriarchy. The solicitation takes place in such a bizarre manner that even women fail to recognize their own contribution. * Food Security
It is a matter of great surprise to learn the fact that India has now achieved self- sufficiency in food grain production and is exporting food grains but its people are still food insecure. Needless to mention it is again women who are more chronically energy deficient owing to the age-old norm of taking meals only when their male counterparts have finished eating. Women tend to eat at last where at times they even go hungry as nothing remains once the entire family has had the meal. This norm is so stringent that women never dare to even dream of eating before the other members. * Political participation
Politics has always been considered an arena exclusive to men. Women are neither supposed to be aware of the political processes happening around them nor interfere in those matters. If some of the women try to intervene, the move is highly discouraged and neglected. This is exactly the reason why in spite of a female being the scratch of a village the husband acts on her behalf and why the quorum of a gram Saba is never fulfilled and why women are not aware of any welfare programmed made for them. * Access to educational opportunities Women since their birth are considered a burden to the family.
Their education is never valued as most of the parent’s mostly in rural areas and some in urban areas believe that their daughter has to be married one day which entails a hefty expenditure including the dowry, etc and hence investment in a girl child will yield no returns as she is likely to leave her place and go to her in-laws place. * Access to quality health services Women in India exhibit a dismal health seeking behavior. It is a grossly neglected in poor households. They suffer from a huge range of problems concerning their health.
On discussing the health of a woman with a farmer we got a very shocking reply hereby he replied that in an event of both falling sick (his wife and cow) he would attend to the cow first since it is his meaner of survival. He could do without his wife but not without his cow. Thus such neglect from within the family itself discourages women too from getting herself treated. Lacunae of the Poverty Alleviation Programmed Genders as a concept is incorporated loosely in the development language and process which claims no wonder why the results have not shown up.
Here in this section I would like to bring in a few examples (with respect to India) that show how he policies have not been conducive to impact poor women positively. Poverty reduction in women requires asset redistribution along with ownership of land since traditionally they have been denied the possession of land and other important assets which can play a major role in diversifying the employment opportunities for them. Many of the programmed fail to deliver because of their inability to understand specific issues and needs of women.
For instance the PADS, it does not take into account the intra household allocation of food consumption owing to the socio- cultural norms of everyday living. Similarly, the self-employment schemes such as credit provision leading to asset creation have also failed since it did not consider the gender dimension attached to it. Link between poverty mitigation and employment is crucial for women and there are examples which suggest that those employment programmed that have been formulated by bringing in women’s concerns have worked out well.
For instance the cooperatives credit schemes initiated by some Nags and social movements have been highly successful. However the point here is that the official resources meant for this goal should be spent Judiciously in the right erection. (Gosh, J. 2007) Women’s self understanding of poverty: listening to their voices The development planners since time immemorial have been deciding on behalf of these women without even realizing whether their envisaged benefits have ever reached to these people or not.
Women who get affected by these development policies, programmed and interventions need to be heard and their voices need to be included in the decision making process. There has not been a compelling need prior to this where women are becoming more and more aware and are showing the parks to break through these chains of oppression and deprivation. Women across the world have started raising their voices against injustice and are now questioning the unreasonable normative prescriptions.
They now realize the significance of their say in decisions governing their lives. However the basic step to start with is to listen to the unheard voices of women and make it a participatory planning process. But to aspire for effective participation of women in all the processes affecting their lives it is also essential to ensure their right to education more so in the developing Mounties like India where unreasonable norms and traditions are still followed with reverence. Education thus stands as a major empowering tool.