Rate this
5 (1 votes)
“Key to development: empower rural women”
5 out of 5 based on 1 user ratings

“Key to development: empower rural women”

Efforts to eradicate poverty are traditionally aimed at men, writes Abdur Rafay Usmani, 22, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Karachi in Pakistan, who argues in support of research that shows better results come from directing aid and assistance to rural women.

One of the biggest factors impeding sustained economic growth in the third world has been the uneven development between the rural and urban sector, which produces social strife, formation of slums and an immense strain on existing infrastructure.

Poverty in developing countries predominantly remains a rural phenomenon and is disproportionately concentrated among women. This has been an outcome by design, as various socio-political barriers hamper a woman’s social mobility, negatively influencing development.

Women comprise half the populace but account for around 60-80% of the total agricultural laborr, and are responsible for over three quarters of the staple food production in the least developed countries. As well, women generate additional income for the family from production of local goods for the village market and through labour on nearby cash crop plantations. These contributions insulate the household from external shocks such a bad harvest and fluctuation in food prices.

In the last few decades, a woman’s role in the rural sector has only further extended as men have increasingly migrated to urban areas for better economic prospects.

Poor households relying on men as bread earners are considerably more vulnerable to poverty than households where both genders are engaged in earning. The latter is also capable of generating more expendable income. Greater income translates to greater savings and this presents opportunities for upward social mobility. Savings can be invested in the education of their children, increasing crop yields with investment in the latest technology or diversifying sources of income beyond that of subsistence farming. This also translate to farmers who are less likely to acquire debt in times of hardship, less vulnerable to being appropriated of their lands and at less risk of becoming landless labourers.

Evidence also clearly states that a larger share of income provided by the wife tends to be used for children’s welfare then does that by husbands. Access to greater economic opportunities for women translates to better prospects for the youth, which due to demographic trends are likely to remain the majority age group in the upcoming decades.

Despite the clear empirical data, the majority of sponsored agriculture extension programmes in the Third World has been and continues to be primarily targeted at men. A World Bank study showed that most extension agents perceived women as “wives of farmers” rather than as farmers in their own right. Even local government programmes designed for women have reflected a bias against providing them with too much independence. Land titles have often been distributed to only the male heads of rural households. Since in many traditional societies land translates as social standing and prestige, many women previously enjoying some independence have been left marginalised by such gender-based policies.

Women, especially in the rural sector, face a multitude of political and cultural barriers limiting them from realising their potential. This not only continues to inhibit economic growth by artificially preventing a major portion of the workforce from fully entering the market, but also is a cause of chronic poverty as female-led households find themselves with few opportunities and male-led households with not enough income.

The majority of the member countries in the Commonwealth have considerable rural populace with relatively higher instances of poverty. Rural development strategies should not put their foci on economic growth alone. ‘Gender’ needs to be mainstreamed in the policy sphere. Only then can we truly aim to address issues characteristic of the rural sector, such as poverty, inequality and hunger.

photo credit: CIMMYT Farmer weeding maize field in Bihar, India via photopin (license)

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

About me: I am co-founder of The Odd Historian. I am also a freelance political consultant and serve as a regional administrator of the Masterpeace, a grassroots organisation established in over 45 countries.

My interests include debating, writing and online activism. I aspire to join the UN after my graduation and one day serve as its Secretary General. Currently I am pursuing a degree in International Relations and Political Science from University of London.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

 

Comments

comments

Powered by Facebook Comments