“Gender is not just about women, and poverty is not just about income” (S. Chant, 2010). In actual, it is not the case as stated in the statement above. When the word poverty comes in our mind, the only thing which comes in our mind is the “Lacking on Income”. The poverty is not some the all about the income or the measure of poverty is not only the income of people. Poverty is something more diversified. The concept of poverty has been represented in different ways, defined in different words and dimensions and is measured while using different tools and measurements. During last thirty to forty years, many distinct and diversified approaches has became on surface. These approaches convert the poverty and its measurements from static and narrow focus over expenditures and income to multidimensional and dynamic aspects of poverty and bring it as diversified phenomenon.
This in turn came up with many social deprivations including self respect and self esteem, vulnerability and power, and alike instead of focusing on physical and material deprivations including consumption and income. The idea that the poverty is only the material and objectively determined entity provides the grounds to accept the subjective experiences and the process which leads to these experiences must be the part of framework (Jackson, 1997: 152). The gender and the poverty are two heterogeneous and multi-dimensional facets. The poverty is when ever discussed, it is generally measured in term of income. “The health of people, their education, degree of social inclusion, their gender relations, and all these factors contribute to abolish and/or promote human well-being. These are the factors which help to identify the poverty prevalence and existences.
To get rid of poverty is based upon the improvement of social and personal capacities, and by increasing the access to the variety of resources, support mechanisms and institution (UNPFA, 2002). The analysis of vulnerability need the opening up of households so as that how the resources are generated, how these resources are used, how these are to be converted in assets, and finally, how the return generated by these assets should have to b distributed among the households (Grinspun, Rocha, 2001: 59-60). Similarly, when the word “Gender” strikes with our mind, the only image it creates is “Women’. The focus is mainly posed on the women disadvantages and disparities while measuring and analyzing poverty almost in all over the world. The discussion below is formulated in order to support the both of the above discussed contexts and tried to be comment critically on statement that the “gander is not all about the women and the poverty is not all about the income” in reference with various researches and studies conducted in gendered poverty.
Moreover, the theoretical and qualitative approach is used to achieve the objectives while critically analyzing various term paper and researches in this regards. Before the feminist approaches and studies regarding poverty analysis and gendered poverty, the measures of poverty were not always in context of women poverty rather is viewed in composite context i.e. by composting the interest of men and women both, else women’s interest and needs are assumed to be, only. This leads to various bases for different calls which were made not only for material disaggregated statistics but also for developing various indicators which can measure the changes over the period of time among men and women. These calls were mainly made from the platform of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations against Women 1979. The need to remain focused on gender in poverty analysis was forced and supposed in result of various studies and researches conducted on the topic of growing number of households headed by the women.
The concept and the issue of poverty never has been politically free concept rather it is the prior and underlying assumption, of who is going to undertake the evaluation, and used the available data for this purpose. More specifically, the concept of poverty has been represented in different ways, defined in different words and dimensions and is measured while using different tools and measurements. During last thirty to forty years, many distinct and diversified approaches has became on surface. These approaches convert the poverty and its measurements from static and narrow focus over expenditures and income to multidimensional and dynamic aspects of poverty and bring it as diversified phenomenon. This in turn came up with many social deprivations including self respect and self esteem, vulnerability and power, and alike instead of focusing on physical and material deprivations including consumption and income.
The idea that the poverty is only the material and objectively determined entity provides the grounds to accept the subjective experiences and the process which leads to these experiences must be the part of framework (Jackson, 1997: 152). Not only the subjectivity or subjective approach of poverty, its dynamic nature must be taken in to account. This in turn reduces the emphasis on quantitative approaches in order to enhance the focus on qualitative measures and approaches. Up till now, these developments in this field provides the wider space and room to incorporate invisible and subjective dimensions of gendered poverty analysis. Prior to the feminist approaches to poverty analysis and gendered poverty, the poverty measure in not always in context to women poverty rather is viewed in composite context, else women’s interest and needs are assumed to be, only (Kabeer, 1997:1). From this, push to understand the dimensions of poverty owes any measure in order to mount the feminist advocacy and research which has challenged gender blindness as in conventional measures of poverty policy and analysis in different ways since 1970s (Kabeer, 1997:1).
Various major bodies and institutions which had focused on gender research in composite with implications in poverty analysis include UN during 1975 to 1985 on women and development. The earliest and prior work in the field of gender and its implication on poverty was mainly done by UNDW (United Kingdom Decade for Women during 1975-1985). While raising the attention on the women invisibility in development, the United Kingdom Decade for Women spawned extensive efforts to expose and to discover that what they did, and how women, in comparison with men, fared in development changes. At that time, most of the efforts were exerted toward productive role of women and their material and financial well being while giving the prevailing and customary concerns to economic growth. This arguably limited approach from contemporary and conventional view point on poverty, brought up many new aspects and perspective including the emphasis on how the women as contrary to men are more disadvantaged in term of financial and materiality.
The detailed surveys and researches came up with considerable evidences and proofs on disparities in income in genders or gender income disparities. Along these evidences and proofs regarding gender disparities, these conducted studies and surveys also through light on those process which are contributing in these disparities i.e. various factors and variables contributing these gender based income disparities including inequalities in education and literacy, discrimination in labor markets and low economic and social value which is attributed to the work the women performed. Second poverty perspective which is emanating from early research was the difficulties of getting the useful and meaningful data and information on various aspects of women lives including both the privations in material and other subjective aspects, from gross level statistics. This brought up the question on surface that how the less sensitive and disaggregated data with respect to sex can provide the effective and efficient basis in order to provide policy interventions of gender awareness (Comer, 2003:2). This leads to major basis for various calls made not only for sex based disaggregated statistics but for the development of various indicators which can measure the changes over the period of time among men and women, from the platform of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women 1979(CEDAW) (Corner, 2003; Gaudart, 2002).
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Various programs for gender and structural adjustments were initiated as second wave of work on gendered poverty. Increasing research on gross hood or grassroots impact over structural and gender adjustments programs conducted in various parts of the world suggested that the neoliberal reforms and debt crisis burden should be unequally bared by the men and women (Antrobus and Safa, 1992; Moser, 1989; Elson, 1989). The outcomes of empirical studies conducted on structural adjustments provide the conceptual support and shift the theorizing the households which are associated with new institutional economics (Sen, 1987b, 1990; Young, 1992).
The need to mainly focus on gender in poverty analysis was compelled by the various studies and researches conducted on the topic of growing number of households headed by the women. These studies were conducted both after and during the “Lost Decade”. Most of these researches and the survey studies focused on the disadvantage came on the surface from the women headed households as compared to that headed by the men. The households headed by the women were definitely linked with the global feminization of poverty concept (Bullock, 1994; Acsota-Belen and Bose, 1995; Buvinic, 1995:3; Buvinic and Gupta, 1993, Tinker, 1990). In extensive work on poverty and specifically in policy circles, the poverty of house holds headed by the women became the proxy for the poverty of women (Jackson, 1996). The headship of women became accepted discourse regarding poverty and gender in international agencies (Kabeer, 2003: 81).
The fourth most commonly researched area and field in respect to gender particularly in relevance with poverty is the empowerment of women. During the last decade of last century, the concept of empowerment of women so widely spread in development lexicons and the gender along with the aim to increase the number of development interventions especially which are related to the reduction of poverty being to women empowerment? One among the most common objectives was that relating to enhance the capacity of women to make the choices (UNIFEM, 2000). The definitions of concept “Empowerment” remained challenged same as the implication of women empowerment for them and for the relationship of women with others (Oxaal with Baden, 1997; Kabeer, 1999; Rowlands, 1996; Parpart, 2002; UNIFEM, 2000; Tinker, forthcoming). Various issues having the special relevance with the poverty can be stated under four bullets. Firstly, the idea stating that the empowerment is the process rather than the results or outcomes. Secondly, the empowerment is not the something that can be given rather it is something that has to come “from within”.
Thirdly, the empowerment is the multi-dimensional phenomenon and is worked at various scales including the global, the local, the individual, the collective, and the inter-personal. And finally, the measuring the empowerment required various insider’s perception sensitive, at grassroots, and sensitive to meaning given in different cultural context (Kabeer, 1999; Rowland, 1996). On these basis, the idea of dynamic phenomenon rather than that of static, regarding the empowerment is supported i.e. the eradication of poverty or in order to get rid from it, the “top-down” and “One-off” approaches including WID approaches are to be replaced with GAD approaches. WID approaches to eradicate the poverty are the approaches which are intended to focus only on the women while the GAD approaches to get rid from poverty are those which conceptualize the gender as the diverse and dynamic social construct. Also, these approaches tend to encompass the men as well while working in the area of poverty. The GAD approaches also focus on the concept that it is unlikely, in order to effectively focus, to unilaterally focus on material or income rather the wages and employment recognized as the key ability of people to have a control over the poverty (González de la Rocha, 2003; Moser, 1998).
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The essence of this associated with other gender research bodies came with general analysis of poverty is now conducted in relation with below stated interrelated issues: firstly, the way under which the gender perspective is influenced includes how the poverty concept is conceptualized and defined. Secondly, impact of gender analysis over the way with which the poverty is measured. And finally, the contribution of researches on genders in order to understand the unequal distribution process of poverty generation between men and women. The way under which the gender perspective is influenced includes how the poverty concept is conceptualized and defined, refers to that the income, no doubt, remains the foremost in macro-level poverty evaluation, the last few years supports the raising ropes in policy circles and academic circles, for broadening the poverty definition criteria (Baden, Milward, 1997; Chambers, 1995; Baulch, 1996; Moser et al.,1996a,b; Whitehead, Lockwood, 1999; Razavi, 1999; Wratten, 1995 World Bank, 2000). While the poverty as the multi-dimensional, dynamic and diversified process refer to that the static view of consumption and income only represents the part of picture rather that of full picture, no doubt, the salaries, wages or income is the trigger of reproduction or motor of other activities (González de la Rocha, 2003:21).
But the importance and effects of income or wages and salaries may be offset to the extent if people are residing in an adequate shelter, having an adequate access to various services for public including medical services and possess an adequate base of assets. The assets may not only include physical assets i.e. the savings, labor, tools, and various natural resources and so forth, but also includes education, social capital including social networks, kin, community organization supports, and skills as well (Cagatay, 1998; Moser, 1996, 1998; Chambers, 1995; McIlwaine, Moser, 1997; Wratten, 1995; McIlwaine, 1997). Moreover, more holistic approach to assess the poverty includes capabilities and entitlement as well (Sen, 1981, 1985, 1987a) and also the notions of poverty as the process and vulnerability (Chambers, 1983, 1989; Haddad, 1991).
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The gender perspective’s contribution in measuring the poverty refers to three various impacts including firstly, the broadening up the various poverty measures in assessment at macro-level, secondly, worked as feeds to break down the conventions of using households as the measurement units in incomes based poverty favoring concentration in domestic groupings and finally, it has focused on how the level of poverty is assessed meaningfully, if the views of people regarding own condition are brought into picture.
The broadening up the various poverty measures in assessment at macro-level:
The quantitative assessment of poverty at macro level is, as concerned, the important step toward conceptualization of poverty is taken by indices formation UNDF (United Nation Development Program). These indices mainly include:
- The share in seats of parliaments, held by the women.
- The proportion of senior officials, managers and legislators, who are women.
- The share of women in technical and professional jobs.
- Ratio of estimated male/female earned income.
The influence of feminist approaches and researches and feminist advocacy on methodologies approaches to poverty and on the conceptualization of poverty, it is essential to recognize the limitations these approaches.
Limitations of various approaches having dominance in analysis of poverty:
Three of the approaches for the analysis of poverty are gender-blind in many ways including the poverty-line approach (measures economic ways and means used by the households in order to meet their basic needs, “capabilities” approach (measures means or ways other than that of earning or used to transfer the payments including entitlement or endowment, are brought in equation), finally, “Participatory Poverty Assessment” (exploring the outcomes and causes of poverty in specific ways with respect top context) (Kabeer, 2003:789).
The ideas representing that the frameworks of poverty analysis should have to be broader is still the desire or is desirable. It does not means to work while using only a single approach, and nor its means to reject the individual approach.
Since last decade and two, among others, poverty and gender inequalities are witnessed as most important and challenging issues which have been surfaced as barriers to economic and social justice in globalizing world. At FWCW (Forth World Conference on Women) during 1995, women poverty was formally addressed by BPFA (Beijing Platform for Action). Record assessed from many countries compels to write here that the economic disadvantages of women are not some thing new. About 70% or more of world poor are women and this looking genuine (as it is rapid adoption and its circulation in academic literature and policy) and categorical statement accompanied with warning clause refers that this level is expected to rise (Moghadam, 1997; Chant, 2008)
In order to eliminate this biasness of gender in poverty worldwide among the women, the Beijing Platform for Action came up with exhortation which becomes prior tendency for poverty analysis dealing in sexless averages of currency (Latham- Johnsson, 2004: 18). And common neglect of gender in poverty eliminating programs (UNDP, 2000). Due to the work done by Beijing Platform for Action, during last decade of 20th century, efforts were being exerted in eliminating poverty among women. In this regards, large number of countries started new programs or at least exert their best efforts. Institutions which are representing different regions of world reinforced and reinforce both, these interventions in the field of removing and eliminating poverty in women. For instance: ADB (Asian Development Bank) reduces its call for interventions of gender poverty based on ground that achieving goal to reduce the poverty is associated with improvement of women status equity i.e. the gender equity has now been recognized essential and compulsory factor in reducing the poverty and transformation of growth in to development (Asian Development Bank, 2002: 135).
Similarly, ECLAC (The Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean) declare the identification of characteristics and reasons associated with female poverty (Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean, 2004: 82). Moreover, many poor countries of the world (the countries claiming relief under Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) are compelled to mainstream gender at-least in their PRSPs (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers), if impossible in practice Linnker and Bradshaw, 2003; Lockwood and Whitehead, 1999). Gender equity and equality is discarded in many ways in all over the world causing the women poverty. For instance: Many microfinance products and loan schemes in developing countries and mainly in third world countries are directed disproportionately to women. For instance: CCT Programs (Conditional Cash Transfer Programs) (Sen Gupta and Goetz, 1996).
Especially, in some Asian countries, the cultural difference and cultural practices are one of the main causes for women disparity and gender inequality (Fahad M. Shafeeq, 2008). In all over the world, all the members of United Nations support both the views of reducing gender inequality to reduce the extreme level of poverty and also discourage the empowerment of women, on the other pool as a parcel and part of universal goals and objectives for 21st century which were established by millennium Declaration (Sweetman, 2005). While responding the global financial crisis of year 2008, United Nation called upon the Women’s Working Group in order to reposition as leader in new economic, financial and global development architecture, showing integration of equality of gender and women rights act. The conclusion obstructed from five yearly world surveys regarding the Role of Women in Development of 2009 is “Female control over financial resources including microfinance” (UN-DESA/UNDAW, 2009). Generally viewed, it is not favorable to reduce the poverty gaps between men and women, for policy directives and institutional directives.