by Ruth Aine - 08 September 2013
In 2009, the World Bank published an article which said something quite disheartening that in Africa, poverty has a female face. I don’t know about you but that just sounds WRONG. But then again, that is reality. These words were said in light of the global economic crisis and its impact on the world. Back then, research said that the global economic crisis will have a major effect on women. Girls, more than boys would suffer in areas such as education and infant mortality. The picture painted was about an 18 year old girl who lives in a rural area. She is a school-drop out and single, but about to be married off to a man that would probably be twice her age. In other 20 or so years, she will be the mother of 6-7 children.
Research by Hazel M. McFerson says that the ‘feminization of poverty’ is much a feature of the developing world, with females accounting for half of the world’s population but 70 percent of the poor (Moghadam, 2005).
She goes on to review what would be major causal factors of poverty among mainly rural women in Sub-Saharan Africa in the countries of the tropical belt. “Of course, there are significant differences in the condition of different groups of women in the various countries.” she says. “However, they share a common predicament, rooted in the interaction of three major factors: weak governance, traditional restrictions on women property rights, and violent civil conflict. Although each of these factors has been present at one time or another elsewhere, it is only in Sub-Saharan Africa that all three have been present in contemporary times-as shown among others by Collier, 2007, Cornwall, 2005, and Gordon, 1996.”
Her recommendation at the end of this report is: "Any policy to reduce overall poverty in Africa must address the female face of African poverty."
This paints a very grim picture for us as Africans, but also a huge challenge that we need to work on. Gender issues are still a big deal for us in Africa, we are yet to achieve gender equality.
Madumezulu Girlie Silinda, one of our guest editors on Women and poverty, concludes thatappropriate cultural responses and initiatives around power and decision-making need to focus on cultural barriers, existing family law, and local-level power structures and dynamics; and find strategies to address these crucial obstacles to women’s empowerment.
Women empowerment going forward needs to focus on alleviating poverty as well. This is easier said than done. Can we achieve this?