Staggering but true, over 1 billion people in the world, a majority of which are women, live in improper conditions of poverty, majorly in developing countries. Radical change in today’s world economy has been continuously changing the factors contributing towards social development across all countries. Despite globalization, substantial economic growth and development around the world and growing per capita income, increased poverty of women continues to remain constant across most nations. Gender inequality in economic power-sharing is one of the most important contributing factors towards poverty of women. On the other hand, significant changes in family structure and migration have put more burdens on women, particularly on those who cater to several dependants. Thus, despite of having an income, they continue to live below the poverty line.
Over the past decade, the number of women below the poverty line has grown disproportionately as compared to the number of men in poverty, especially in the developing countries. Feminization of poverty is being considered as a significant problem recently, particularly in countries that are facing a transition in economies, or major social, political and economic transformation. Besides economic factors, the austerity of socially-defined “gender roles” and women’s limited access to education, power, productive resources, training and other emerging factors are also responsible for increased number of poor women around the world.
Though poverty has an impact on the household as a whole, it is only because of responsibilities of household welfare and gender division of labor that women face a disproportionate burden. This causes them to attempt managing both household consumption and production under different conditions of growing scarcity. It has been witnessed that poverty is more acute for women who live in rural households. Economists believe that a woman’s poverty is related to the absence of autonomy and economic opportunities on the large scale, lack of access to education and support services, inconsistent access to economic resources, and minimalist participation in key decision making.
Gender discrimination is one of the major reasons behind poverty in women. They have far lesser resources to cope and are likely to be the last one to eat or access healthcare, and get trapped in unpaid, time-consuming domestic work. They have limited scope for work or to build business. Access to adequate education may also be out of reach. Across the world, poverty in women even takes such bad shape as to force them into sexual exploitation as a part of their struggle to survive. Despite transitions in socio-economic conditions today and growing awareness for women empowerment, women in poverty cope with additional marginalization. They still go unheard when it comes to sharing costs and benefits, or taking decisions on managing the economy.
However, governments across the world, especially in developing countries, are actively stepping forward to transform economic policies and provide more opportunities to women, boost their access to credit and improve the laws to uphold women’s economic rights. Much progress has also been made in this area, but it is still a long journey to attain. Merely ending poverty is not the solution; it is important to put an end to gender discrimination and inequality, and motivate women to come to the forefront and seek economic rights and opportunities.