Gender, Generation and Poverty: Exploring the 'Feminisation of Poverty' in Africa, Asia and Latin America

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The 'feminisation of poverty' is widely viewed as a global trend, and of particular concern in developing regions. Yet although popularisation of the term may have raised women's visibility in development discourses and gone some way to 'en-gender' policies for poverty reduction, the construct is only weakly substantiated. Its over-emphasis on income and on female household headship also conveys little of the contemporary complexities of gendered disadvantage. In Gender, Generation and Poverty Sylvia Chant challenges the 'feminisation of poverty' on the basis of recent fieldwork in The Gambia, Philippines and Costa Rica. Interviews with over 220 women and men of different ages at the grassroots, as well as with 40 professionals in international agencies, government departments and NGOs, highlight the difficulties of establishing any general tendency towards a widening of gender disparities in income poverty, or for female household heads to be the 'poorest of the poor'. While not denying a 'female bias' in material privation, a more important and consistent pattern is that women are bearing an ever-greater burden of responsibility for household survival, and under especially exploitative conditions in male-headed units. These findings lead Chant to propose a more elaborate and nuanced construction of the 'feminisation of poverty' which incorporates inputs as well as incomes and takes greater account of gender relations within the home. This not only stands to enrich gendered poverty analysis, but to provide a more appropriate basis for policy interventions. This volume will not only be an important resource for scholars of development, gender and area studies in Africa, Asia and Latin America, but also for professionals and activists working towards the elimination of poverty and gender inequality at national and international levels.