Feminization of Poverty: Women at the Margins

This International Day for the Eradication of Poverty we focus on different dimensions of the feminization of poverty and how women’s poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities, particularly for marginalized women. This publication, entitled Women at the Margins, focuses on the socially excluded: indigenous, migrants, women with disabilities, Dalit and LGBTQI persons who bear a disproportionate economic burden because of discrimination, gender divisions of labor and responsibilities for household welfare. The publication shares one page, digestible facts and figures about populations situated at the margins of society due to a variety of factors. We look at how multidimensional poverty and its contributing factors, lack of health services, lack of education, inadequate living standards, poor quality of work, gender-based violence, and living in areas that are environmentally hazardous, among others, contribute to the feminization of poverty.

What is Feminization of Poverty?

According to the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995), “because of the gender division of labor and responsibilities for household welfare, women bear a disproportionate burden, attempting to manage household consumption and production under conditions of increasing scarcity”. 

“Women’s poverty is directly related to the absence of economic opportunities and autonomy, lack of access to economic resources, including credit, land ownership and inheritance, lack of access to education and support services and their minimal participation in the decision-making process.”

Beijing Platform for Action, United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women 1995

The feminization of poverty is the term used to underscore the disproportionate socio economic precarity women face relative to men due to gender stereotypes and norms, and systemic disparities, such as unpaid domestic labor and gender-based violence. Financial market regulations and orthodox macroeconomic policies further exacerbate this problem by not incorporating a gender perspective or a human rights approach into their evaluations and analysis. Thus, market “efficiency” ought to be redefined in order to mean minimization of inequality, and not, maximization of profits (UNIFEM 2006).

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