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Women and Poverty Reduction in Nigeria: From rhetorics to action Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Amaka for Kids, Nigeria Feb 16, 2007
Human Rights , Poverty , Maternal Health & Child Mortality   Opinions
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Poverty has been identified as a major obstacle to realization of women’s human rights and one of the most surreptitious forms of violation of a woman’s rights. Not surprising it came on top of the list of twelve critical areas of concern for the women of the world adopted at the fourth world conference on women held in Beijing, China. It was estimated in the Beijing Declaration that more than one billion people in the world today, the great majority (about 70%) of who are women, live in unacceptable conditions of poverty, mostly in development countries. Although, there is need to question statistics here particularly in the absence of reliable indicator of the extent to which women are over-represented among the population with incomes below the poverty line. None of the indicators commonly used to track incidence and severity of income poverty are gender sensitive. While poverty affects households as a whole, because of gender division of labour and responsibilities for household welfare, women bear a disproportionate burden, attempting to manage households’ consumption and production under conditions of increasing scarcity. Poverty is particularly acute for women living in rural households. The poverty trend in Nigeria as shown by the Federal office of Statistics is not based on gender disaggregated data. According to official Nigerian source the incidence of poverty increased from 28.1 percent in 1980 to 46.3 percent in 1985, declined to 42.7percent in 1992 and increased to 65.6 percent in 1996. In absolute terms, the populations in poverty were 18.26million, 34.7 million and 67.1 million in 1980, 1985 and 1996 respectively. The Human Development Report 2002 placed the number of people living in less than a dollar in sub-Saharan African at 300 million in 1999 a global share percent of 46.7%. According to the report” The declining share of people in extreme poverty is hopeful, but the level remains disturbingly high. And failure to reduce poverty in Sub Saharan Africa, the world’s poorest region, is a grave concern”. In fact, Sub Saharan ended the millennium 5% poorer than in 1990. In terms of income poverty Nigeria ranked 58 out of 88 developing countries. About, 70.2 per cent of the Nigerian population according to that report lives on an income of $1(one US dollar) a day that is below the poverty line and the Human Development Index Ranking places Nigeria in 148 position out of 173 countries of the world ranked in its 2000 report. The only consolation in terms of progress towards Millennium Development Goal 1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger is that Nigeria from that report has halved the proportion of people suffering from hunger. However, when one considers this Vis a Vis other indicators of poverty, for example, the rate of under 5 and infant mortality, life expectancy and also maternal mortality then there is no cause for celebration. The life expectancy is 51.7% while under 5 mortality rates is 184 per 1000 live births There is no record of maternal mortality in that report but national statistics show that maternal deaths represent approximately 23 per cent of all deaths to women age 15- 49 years. However, the data from the same survey estimating the maternal mortality ratio to be 289 per 100,000 live births is suspect. Thus, the generally accepted ratio is 600 per 100,000 live births.

Who is Poor and Meaning of Poverty?
Although, there is no conceptual clarity as to the definition of who is poor and meaning of poverty, there is a nuance understanding of poverty particularly from the perspectives of people living in poverty. I would like to define a “poor” person as one who is in need or in want and has less than is necessary for survival and development. Such a person lives a substandard life, often miserable and hapless owing to uncertainties about procuring basic needs for survival or existence on this planet earth. Due to insufficiency of means providing means of livelihood is hardship for such a person described as poor. On the other hand “poverty” could be defined as a “state of lacking adequate food or money” and living from “ hand- to – mouth existence”.
A state of poverty is characterized by food insecurity, lack of portable water, inadequate access to modern health facilities, inadequate access to education, feeder roads etc. Therefore a state of being poor is state of powerlessness, insecurity and uncertainties. The poor is the marginalized-living at the margin of subsistence on less than one USD ($1) a day. It is important to note that poverty can be used in relative terms and just as an individual man or woman can said to be poor a country can be described as a poor nation. Nigeria fall within the developing countries of the south and located in the Sub Saharan described as the poorest region of the world. Indicators have been developed for measuring the level of poverty or the population of the poor in a particular country. Human development index includes: Life expectancy at birth, Adult literacy rate, combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrollment ratio, GDP per capita, population not using improved water sources, long term unemployment, population below income poverty line, population with access to essential drugs, health expenditure, under 5 and infant mortality rate as well as maternal mortality ratio. When Nigeria was ranked using these aforementioned indicators it came 148 out of 173 countries with high population below income poverty line. Even though, Nigeria GDP has not fall it has been a case of economic growth without poverty reduction. As noted in the Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration: Poverty has various manifestations, including lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure a sustainable livelihood; hunger and malnutrition; ill health; limited or lack of access to education and other basic services; increasing morbidity and mortality from illness; homelessness and inadequate housing; unsafe environments; and social discrimination and exclusion. Furthermore, Poverty is characterized by lack of participation in decision making and in civil, social and cultural life. It occurs in all countries- as mass poverty in many developing countries and as pockets of poverty amidst wealth in developed countries. Poverty may be caused by an economic recession that results in loss of livelihood or by disaster or conflict. There is also poverty of low- wage workers and the utter destitution of people who fall outside family support systems, social institutions and safety nets.

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