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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


Gendered Nature of Poverty
The increasing feminizing of poverty has led many to the conclusion that poverty is indeed gendered and has assumed a woman’s face. The UNDP Human Development Report in 1995 observed, “ Poverty has a woman’s face – of 1.3 billion people living in poverty, 70% are women. The increasing poverty of women has been linked to their unequal situation in the labour market, their treatment under social welfare systems and their status and power in the family”.
The category women have been described as the poorest of the poor and more susceptible to poverty owing to a number of factors we shall address in the next section. While there is still lack of comprehensive research to confirm that majority of poor Nigerians are women, some indicators have been used to evidence that women and men experience poverty differently, and many aspects of poverty (such as deprivation, powerlessness, vulnerability, seasonality) impact differently on males and females. Several indicators were used by the Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper to confirm disparities in poverty between males and females. In 1996, the literacy rate for males was 62 percent and 39 per cent for females; the corresponding figures for 1997 were 61 percent and 47 per cent respectively, and 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively in 1998. In addition the average net primary enrollment in 1996 was 55 percent for boys and 45 percent for girls, with 57 percent for boys and 44 percent for girls in 1997. Similarly, post primary enrollment in 1996 was 53 percent for boys and 47 percent for girls. In the area of health, maternal mortality rate has hovered around 600 per 100,000 live births within the last decade. Gender ascribed roles in addition to economic recession has exacerbated women’s poverty and constrained their access to power, education, training and productive resources. In Nigeria, majority of the population lives in the rural area and it’s estimated that more women and children live in the rural area. Given that fact and in view of the disparities in social infrastructures between urban and rural areas one may conclude that the rural women are more vulnerable lacking access to education, health, safe water and sanitation. The Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in recognition of the vulnerable position of rural women to poverty urged State Parties to take into account particular problems faced by rural women and the significant roles which women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non- monetized sectors of the economy. It places an obligation on State Parties to take appropriate action to eliminate discrimination against women in rural areas in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, that they participate in and benefit from rural development and, in particular, shall ensure to such women the right to adequate health, education and training; adequate living conditions, particularly in housing, sanitation, electricity and water supply, transport and communications. It further, enjoins them to ensure that rural women have access to agricultural credit and loans, marketing facilities, appropriate technology and equal treatment in land and agrarian reform as well as in land resettlement schemes. The extents to which Nigeria a State Party to this Convention will implement this provision to reduce women’s poverty remain to be seen. It is pertinent to observe that within the category of poor women some women are regarded as particularly vulnerable. These include female headed households, widows, single mothers, pregnant mothers, mothers with only female children and segregated groups in societies such as outcast and persons dedicated to shrines. Others are elderly women, childless women, inhabitants of rural areas and persons affected or displaced by wars, civil strife, natural disasters and environment degradation

Causes of Women’s Poverty
Poverty has many causes, including structural ones. Poverty is a multidimensional problem, with origins in both national and international domains. The Internationalization seen in globalization processes of the world economy today has deepened the gap between the rich and the poor people within nations and in international community, between the rich North and the Poor Countries of the South. In general, women’s poverty can be attributed 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. Specifically within the Nigerian context, I have listed for discussion the following 11 points in no particular order as causes of women’s poverty.

1. Low education
2. Unequal access to Education
3. Early Marriage
4. Female Headed Households
6. Internal Conflicts


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