There’s incontrovertible evidence from numerous studies indicating that mothers spend their income on health and food for children, as opposed to men, who use a bigger percentage of their money on personal needs.
A study performed in South Africa, for instance, showed that children are more likely to survive in urban towns of South Africa when the income of the household is controlled by a woman instead of a man (Martin et al., 2001). Yet, women lack equal access to productive inputs.
The link between gender and poverty
Even as the world grapples with the gender gap, women in growing economies are still subjected to injustice, gendered division of assets, cultural norms and values and power dynamics. They also face social, political and structural barriers that hinder them from thriving in competitive markets.
The policymakers also tend to overlook the inherent knowledge that women posses as they come up with strategies to reduce or eliminate poverty. Development interventions tend to rely on the notion that men are providers and women are dependents.
Why more women live in poverty:
- Gender inequality and differences
In most parts of Africa and other third world countries, women are viewed as a man’s possession. Their duty is limited to giving birth, taking care of the men and raising the children. These gender norms tend to influence institutional laws and policies that define men’s and women’s access to productive resources like land, credit, education, and employment
Plenty of evidence shows that women in India, Africa and other growing economies around the world are more disadvantaged than men when it comes to accessing these crucial productive resources. There’s also a substantial amount of evidence showing that the responsibilities and challenges of women in poor households and societies are different from those of men.
To a greater extent, the inequality and differences in the roles of men and women influence the causes, and consequences of women’s poverty. Policymakers and community leaders must, therefore, consider gender inequality and differences to address the needs of the underrepresented group effectively.
- They spend more time taking care of the family
In addition to taking care of children, women and girls in poor communities and households are often tasked with the responsibility of cooking, caring, and cleaning after the entire family. They also are expected to travel long distances in search of water, firewood, fodder as well as care for livestock and cultivate food. It isn’t news that girls and women carry the weight of unpaid domestic duties.
Already as it is, this is too much responsibility bestowed upon women. It limits their resources (time) to even try and do something that will better their lives. Besides, the fact they lack the opportunity to go through school means they aren’t eligible to get formal employment. As a result, they are bound to stay at home and dedicate their entire lives, health, and effort to caring for the family.
- Never-ending cycle
Unfortunately, girls who are born into such households are also recruited to care for their siblings and help with other duties and are highly likely to miss out going to school.
As if that isn’t enough, they end up being married off at tender ages, not only because their families can’t afford to feed an extra mouth, but also that they want to benefit from the bride price.
It’s like a never-ending cycle, because more often than not, these little girls will wind up living like their moms, and perhaps pass it down to their daughters.
- Women are more likely to bear the economic cost of child’s upbringing
In case of separation, divorce or even rape, women are likely to be responsible for raising the children. Statistics show that 8 in 10 custodial parents are women, and often, they’re less likely to be financially fit as the custodial fathers.
Ways to minimize women’s poverty
- Education is the greatest equalizer; it opens up a person to endless opportunities. The right knowledge is sure to lift women from poverty and enhance their lives mentally, financially and physically.
- Policymakers should be keen on gender inclusivity; to ensure women are well represented in governmental institutions. These women will serve as mentors and role models for the young girls, and will also help air out the plights of poor women.
- Investments to boost agricultural productions, improve livestock management, and offer livelihood opportunities can also go a long way in addressing the needs of poor women in the developing countries.
- Organizations can empower women to engage in their villages – these women will educate their communities on matters health, nutrition, good sanitary habits, best farming practices, and other things that promote better living.
- Involving men and boys in the fight against gender inequality is paramount. Therefore, it’s essential that brothers, husbands, and fathers are encouraged to be part of the efforts that educate them on how to develop positive relationships.
The Causes and Effects of Child Marriage
“If I only knew what I know now, I never would have settled into marriage. I cannot remember the last time I smiled with joy. My life is clouded with fear, anger, depression, and uncertainty. I don’t know where to turn to for hope, so I’m left here, sitting, hoping for the best, that I’m sure will never come to pass,” Mambo tells me with deep regret.
She was only 13 when her parents married her off to an 18-year-old boy from the neighboring community. From where she comes from, girls should not stay with their parents for long. They belong with their husbands.
Her story is typical of what girls her age go through in the Sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia. Statistics show that 1 in 4 girls marry before age 18. African countries account for 17 of 20 nations with the highest rates of child marriage in the world. For example, about 55% of girls in West and Central Africa, 60% in sub-Saharan Africa and 45% in Eastern and Southern Africa marry before they are 18. In South Asia, about 1 in 3 girls marry before age 18.
This is nothing to sneeze at; and if nothing happens to prevent early marriages, the numbers will double by 2050.
You may wonder why children turn into brides. Here are some common causes of child marriage:
- Dowry – In African communities, grooms have to pay the bride price before they get the girl, while in Asia, it is just the opposite – girls have to pay the price. Families that live in poverty view this as a chance to get a considerable amount of money. In Africa, some parents will marry off the girl so they can raise the school fees for their boys. In Asia, a younger girl costs less than an older one, so it is advantageous to marry them off soon.
- Family honor – For most families, it is a great honor to marry off a virgin daughter. Parents fear their girls will indulge in sex if they stay longer at home. So, they prefer that she settles with her husband before she thinks about messing up.
- The notion that girls do not hold value – In places like Burundi, girls are only valuable because they can produce babies.
- Men make decisions alone – They decide what is best for their children, and the rest follow suit. When a man says she’s going to be married, that is what will happen.
- Lack of choice for girls – In many societies, marriage is the only way for a girl to support herself and also earn the social respect. It is seen as the only way to secure her future.
- Peer pressure – Some parents marry off their children to please the neighbors or their religious leaders. Some do it because they believe it is the right way to behave.
Effects of Early Child Marriage
While there are national laws and international agreements to end this harmful practice, early child marriage is still prevalent and affects millions of people around the globe.
Child marriage is a violation of human rights.
Girls, who marry young fail to enjoy optimal health, obtain an education, bond with their peers, and even choose their life partners.
- Psychological effects
53% of women who marry before age 18 report having had depression at some point in life, which is 4% more than women who marry later on. They also are more likely to suffer from specific phobias than their counterparts (36% vs. 28%). The mental health effects tend to vary with the number of children a woman has along with other social variables.
- Health effects
Child marriage exposes the girl to more risk for STIs, cervical cancer, obstetric fistulas, death during childbirth and malaria. They also face the risk of premature birth.
How does a child who knows nothing about the world raise another child, into a responsible adult?
Ending child marriage
There is not a fast and hard solution to end child marriage in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. However, if we ensure that all girls have access to decent education, then that will be a step in the right direction.
It is also important for religious and community leaders to understand their role in the fight against child marriage. They have the power to change how people view these practices. The best approach is to empower such leaders with the right information, which they can pass on to their societies.
Since child marriage is a deep-rooted practice that has been going on for generations, we should jointly work with families and communities to raise awareness of the harmful effects of child marriage. This will help shift how they view the practice.
Above all else, countries should establish and implement laws and policies around child marriage. Strong policy and legal system can offer a vital backdrop for changes in social norms, improvement in services and girls’ empowerment.
The Struggles of Pregnant Women in the Marginalized Communities of Africa
Giving birth should be a joyful experience. But for Africa’s poor, the process is often life-threatening.
Women from the marginalized communities face numerous challenges. They lack access to quality medical services, resources, as well as the right education around pregnancy.
This is the story of Cherop, a young girl from the Maasai tribe in Kenya. It is a reflection of what thousands of girls go through every year to bring a baby into this world.
Cherop is a 17-year-old girl from the Maasai Community. She is expecting her firstborn baby, and like most of the mothers, she is very eager to meet her unborn child.
Since she was three months on, she has been making endless trips to the midwife – Mama. Everyone in the village knows and trusts Mama. For over 30 years, she has helped hundreds of women give birth.
What is surprising is that she does it all in her small grass-thatched house, on top of a not-so-stable table, with no equipment, no gloves, no medication, just her bare hands. And although she manages to handle the process successfully, there are times when the baby, the mother or both lose their lives.
But the fact that one too many lives get lost during delivery does not stop Cherop from employing her services. In fact, she believes that hers will be successful, because she’s been strict with her checkups, and that she has followed the midwife’s instruction to the latter. Besides, she has no reason to doubt the ability of Mama. After all, she was the one who helped her mother give birth to her about two decades ago.
Journey to the hospital
Even though Cherop dropped out of school before she could read, she knows the importance of going to the hospital. Her favorite radio program talks about this all the time. But this is not an option for her. The nearest hospital is about 150 KM away, and the only vehicle that goes there passes at four o’clock in the morning. Unfortunately, the bus fares are often too high. If she decides to go to the hospital, she would have to walk for two or more days.
There is also an option of using a bicycle service as a transport mode; however, the roads are hilly and rocky. And because the Maasai village sits in an arid area, temperatures go beyond 45-degrees during the day and about 10-degrees at night. All these conditions are unfavorable to a pregnant woman.
The state of public hospitals
Despite all the journey troubles, Cherop could still make to the hospital. But if she considers what awaits her there, she would rather have the midwife help her with delivery.
It is a good thing that the government of Kenya declared free maternal care in all public hospitals. The problem is there are inadequate resources in these facilities. Therefore, it beats logic for one to go through the struggle only to find out that there is insufficient personnel in the hospital to help with the delivery.
Most hospitals in the marginalized areas do not have the necessary equipment, such as incubators, monitors, overhead heaters, IV, feeding pumps or ventilators, so nothing can be done if a baby is born prematurely, for there are
Also, Cherop does not see the need to go to the hospitals where she has to share a bed with three other pregnant or lactating women. She thinks it is uncomfortable, unhygienic, and frustrating – and she is right.
Negligence is another thing that scares her.
“I have heard cases of women delivering on the floor! The negligence in hospitals is just too much. Just the other day, four women and seven infants died at the hospital because of the looming blood shortage,” she says.
Midwives play an incredible role in the society. However, it is essential for every pregnant woman to have access to quality medical services. These children are the leaders of tomorrow, and if nothing is done, then many things go wrong. It is, therefore, our duty to speak out to ensure governments develop more hospitals in the marginalized communities and ensure that these hospitals are fully equipped with the right tools of the trade, so no life is lost.
If Not You, Who Will End Violence against Women in the Sub-Saharan Countries?
In South Africa alone, 1 in 3 women and girls have been victims of violence. Less than 40% of them seek help of any sort. Of this, only 10% seek support from police.
The UN Declaration on Ending Violence against Women, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defined violence against women as:
- Any sexual, mental or physical violence that occurs within a family unit: This can take any form, including battering, forced marriage, sexual abuse, rape, non-spousal violence, FGM and other harmful traditions.
- Any sexual, mental or physical violence that occurs in the community: This includes sexual abuse, rape, women trafficking, and sexual harassment in schools, at work or elsewhere.
- Any sexual, mental, and physical violence that the government deliberately ignores, or executes in any region of the country
A 1995 study by the World Health Organization established that gender-based violence is a universal problem which affects millions of women. However, those who live in the sub-Saharan countries take the most heat. According to statistics, 51% of African women have been victims of violence.
Cases of violence are still very commonin many regions across the continent. What is shocking is they continue to happen even in broad daylight.
Not long ago, KoffiOlomide, a Congolese musician, was caught on camera kicking his female dancerat the JKIA, Nairobi.
According to Mercy Onda, a Women’s Right Activist in Kenya, the fact that Olomide had the guts to kick a woman publicly, in a foreign country, in the presence of police officers, and wasn’t charged shows the degree to which violence against women is normalized.
Causes of violence against women
- Physical violence
Culture plays an integral part in shapingpeople. It determines the definition of both the psychopathology and normality. Culture is at the center stage of how certain societies and population perceive and process physical, sexual and mental violence.
Most of the African rural communities still believe that women, like children, should be beaten as a form of discipline. They even take it a notch higher and say it is a way to expresslove. When a man fails to hit his wife, then she imagines that he does not care anymore.
A recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) survey showed that about 29% of women had experienced either physical or sexual violence since age 15. It also found that 34% and 46% of men and women respectively, justify wife beating.
- Sexual violence
Sexual violence cases are prevalent in cultures that do not shun women objectification. They see women as the inferior sex, whose opinion doesnot hold value, and that their role is limited to reproduction. In these cultures, men feel like they own a woman and can do whatever they please with them, including forcing them into having sex. What is sad is that onlya few cases (26%-33%) reach the authorities, because of the stigma and other difficulties that tie with the issue.
Various cultures condemn some forms of sexual violence but tolerate others. This fuels the continuum with tolerated coercion on the one hand and transgressive on the other.
For instance, in South Africa, the sexual offense against a black woman was acceptable as part of life, but for a white woman, it was a crime worthy of prosecution under the apartheid regime.
Although violence against women cuts across people of all socioeconomic groups, evidence shows that men who are socially excluded or who live in poverty are likely to perpetrate violence. The financial stress that comes with them being jobless, or feeling inadequate can lead to frustration, anger and violence. Such cases of violence are extreme in fragile, war-affected and conflict states with collapsed economies.
In a home setup, violence against women can be because of men’s insecurities. Some men feel intimidated if the woman has a high paying job. Therefore, they resolve to violence as a way of showing they are the heads of the family.
Exposure to violence from childhood
Children, who grow in families that batter or mistreat women, are likely to pick the habit. Behavioral scientists say that children who grow in violent households or surroundings will often replicate that in their adulthood.
Violence against women roots from cultural norms and gender-based discrimination and stereotypes. The best way to end the violence is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
To end violence, we should strive to:
- Nurture and raise an empowered generation through education. Young girls and boys should learn the importance of gender equality and respectful relationship.
- Empower peer educators who, in turn, will help convey age-appropriate sessions and nonformal education.
- Break the impunity cycle. The victims of violence against women should undergo prosecution, to serve as a lesson for others.
- Societies need to bring violence against women out from behind closed doors. They should refuse to disregard or condone the acts of oppression and domination (in the name of tradition or culture).
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